There are potentially very drastic changes to youth court advocacy on the horizon and the committee need your assistance with responding effectively to the proposals.
The SRA have launched a new consultation entitled Assuring Advocacy Standards. The consultation documents are attached to this e-mail. In summary, the SRA believe that “persistent concerns have been raised about the standard of solicitors’ advocacy” and measures need to be taken to address this. The proposed measures are:
1) Introducing revised higher rights of audience (criminal and civil) standards
2) Introducing a single, centralised HRA assessment
3) Requiring that the HRA assessment be taken after admission (i.e. doing away with the possibility of doing the HRA qualification as part of the PSC and NQ solicitors being able exercise higher rights immediately upon admission)
4) Requiring solicitors who practice in the youth court to have higher rights if they are appearing as the advocate for clients charged with serious either-way or indictable only offences that would have gone to the Crown Court if the defendant was an adult
5) Providing resources to help solicitors meet SRA standards
6) Supporting reporting about advocacy standards to help the SRA act when they have concerns about a solicitor’s competence to conduct advocacy
The consultation seeks responses to the following questions, with responses due by 13th November 2019:
Question 1: Do you agree with our proposal not to change existing practice rights, and to rely on the obligation on solicitors not to undertake witness handling where they are not competent to do so?
Question 2: Do you have any comments on our revised HRA standards?
Question 3: Do you agree that we should introduce a single assessment organisation for the HRA qualification?
Question 4: Do you agree with our proposal that the HRA assessment can only be attempted by admitted solicitors?
Question 5: Do you agree that we should impose a new youth courts requirement that solicitors practising in the youth courts must hold the criminal HRA qualification where they are acting as an advocate in any case which would go to the Crown Court if it involved an adult?
Question 6: Would you find it helpful to have access to a suite of resources aimed at supporting practitioners to meet high advocacy standards?
Question 7: Are there particular topics you would like to see included in our advocacy resources?
Question 8: Do you agree with these proposals? Do you have other suggestions about how we might improve our reporting processes?
The LCCSA committee have established a sub-committee to prepare a response on behalf of the membership and we would be very grateful for any thoughts that you may have on this topic as, ultimately, the LCCSA response should reflect the views of the members. We are especially keen on having your insights into how the proposed changes to advocacy in serious youth court cases will impact upon your businesses. We on the committee are very concerned about this proposed change in particular and we would urge members to share your thoughts on this. We would also encourage members to submit their own individual responses to the consultation to the SRA.
Please send any thoughts you may have on the subject to me in the first instance. All replies will be treated in the strictest confidence. Please respond by 28th October 2019.