The Criminal Bar Association says that there are three ?bottom line, non-negotiable elements? in respect of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) (see  Gazette, 15 December, 1).
Its proposals in respect of two of those elements are unacceptable as far as solicitors are concerned. Those are case grading regardless of plea and exclusively judicial evaluation. The CBA says that, unless it gets its way, it will recommend that barristers do not sign up to these regulatory changes. Can the CBA derogate from its regulator as it sees fit? Or is this negotiation along the lines of ?if you don?t play our way then we?re taking our ball away??
On case grading, the CBA?s point seems to be that you need trial experience to assess the evidence and so advise on plea. This ignores the ?plea before venue? procedure in the magistrates? court where, mostly, level 1 advocates advise on plea in respect of every either-way case, including those that will become level 4 under the envisaged scheme. If the CBA point is a good one then this would require a level 4 advocate to be assigned to these cases in the magistrates? court to advise at the first hearing (at considerable cost to the legal aid fund).
It is not a good argument and the CBA should be prepared to negotiate sensibly and not on the basis of self-interest.
Andrew Bishop, Bishop & Light, Hove