Law Reform

Joint Advocacy Group Consultation paper on proposals for a quality assurance scheme for criminal advocates

PUBLISHED September 8, 2010

The Joint Advocacy Group consisting of the BSB, SRA and ILEX Professional Standards, has issued a paper setting out the proposed scheme to quality assure criminal advocacy across all three professions and invites responses on this.
Closing date for responses is 12 November 2010.
SAHCA will be submitting a response to this consultation. Members are invited to contact Lynton Orrett who is responsible for coordinating the response.
1. The Joint Advocacy Group (JAG) was established by the Bar Standards Board, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and ILEX Professional Standards to develop a scheme to quality assure criminal advocacy across the three professions.

2. This paper sets out the proposed scheme and invites comments.

3. Effective advocacy is fundamental to the justice system. Members of the public rely upon it for the proper presentation of their case and the courts are dependent upon it for the proper administration of justice. There is therefore a need for systematic and consistent quality assurance of advocates.

4. Central to JAG's consideration is the desire to develop a scheme which is cost effective, proportionate and straightforward. An unduly burdensome or bureaucratic scheme would not be in the interests of anyone.

5. The proposed scheme therefore builds on the existing education framework for entry into advocacy to develop a rigorous assessment process to ensure that adequate standards are attained at the start of an advocate's career. Periodic re-accreditation will ensure that those standards are maintained as the advocate's career progresses. This is complemented by an informal reporting arrangement for judges and others to refer poorly performing advocates for remediation or re-training. It is proposed that the scheme will be managed by an independent body, accountable to, and with oversight from, the three regulators of advocates.

6. JAG accepts that there is considerable work still to be done to bring the scheme in to operation, particularly in relation to financial planning, and this will continue during the consultation process. This paper seeks views on the proposed framework of the scheme and its component parts and responses will be taken into account as JAG develops the final scheme for introduction in July 2011.

Q1: Do you agree that steps should be taken to address inadequate advocacy performance?
Q2: Do you agree that the scheme should be implemented and operated as described?
Q3: Do you agree that there should be a review of the final QAA scheme after three years of its operation?
Q4: Do you agree that there should be a unified approach to the training and assessment process of all advocates from Level 1 upwards? If so, how quickly do you think the regulators should move towards this goal?
Q5: Do you think advocates should complete a minimum period of practice at Level 1 before being able to move to Level 2?
Q6: If so, what period would be most appropriate?
Q7: Do you agree that advocates applying for Levels 3 or 4 should be required to submit additional evidence of their competence? If so, what form do you think this evidence should take?
Q8: Do you agree with the levels approach to the QAA scheme?
Q9: Do you support the approach to accreditation at each level?
Q10: Do you have any comments on the proposed arrangements to bring existing criminal advocates within the levels?
Q11: Do you think that an advocate's "level" should lapse after a defined period of absence from practice?
Q12: Do you have any views on the proposed arrangements for movement between levels?
Q13: Do you think that judges should be given the discretion to allow advocates to act up a level?
Q14: If so, do you think the safeguards suggested are sufficient? Are there any other safeguards that should be considered?
Q15: Do you agree with re-accreditation every five years?
Q16: Do you have any comments on the proposed approach to re-accreditation?
Q17: Do you agree that QCs should not be exempt from the re-accreditation process?
Q18: Do you have any comments on the proposed "traffic lights" system?
Q19: Do you think that non-judicial references should be permitted by a) clients, b) solicitors/barristers or c) other professionals?
Q20: Do you support the proposed central role that the judiciary will play in the QAA scheme?
Q21: Do you agree that only Circuit Judges and above, who have successfully completed formal training in the QAA system, should be part of the advocacy assessment process?
Q22: Do you have any comments on the financial cost of developing a QAA scheme?
Q23: We have identified some potentially positive and negative consequences for equality in putting in place the proposed QAA scheme. Are there any other positive benefits? Are there any other negative consequences for any group? How can we further promote equality and diversity? How can we mitigate any negative consequences?
Q24: How should 'juniors' be dealt with under the scheme?
Q25: What level should be achieved before advocates can be led? Should it be possible for the facts or circumstances of a particular case to alter this to enable someone not at the required level to be led?
Q26: What level should be achieved before advocates can lead?
Q27: Are there any other issues that have not been mentioned in the consultation paper and which require further consideration at this stage?