21 Dec, 2012

The Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, has said that the public interest demands that excellence, not competence, must be at the heart of any quality assurance scheme, as the Joint Advocacy Group (JAG) published the revised Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).


QASA, which initially will affect only the criminal Bar, seeks to enforce a grading system to ensure that criminal cases are assigned only to those with the requisite experience and ability.


Michael Todd QC, Chairman of the Bar, said:


“The Bar has nothing to fear from robust quality assurance, which has excellence at its heart. This reflects the very high standards which the Bar has always strived to achieve and maintain. We have serious concerns that the revised Scheme, as presented today, contains elements which do not promote the highest standards of advocacy, which the public interest demands.


“Any Scheme which the Bar Standards Board and JAG propose must satisfy a proper public interest test.


“The Bar Council made clear in its response to the most recent Bar Standards Board consultation that any Scheme should not simply provide a low minimum standard of competence or accredit advocates who are neither qualified nor capable of acting at trial, as this scheme does. Many practitioners at the Bar will be dismayed and disappointed that their concerns have not been suitably addressed.


“The Scheme proposed in the consultation was ill-considered, and sought to appease special interests rather than the public interest.


“We will now look very closely at the revised Scheme in order to assess whether it is one which meets the needs of the justice system which all advocates must serve.”

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