Thursday 10 May 2012 by Catherine Baksi
Judges will make the controversial quality assurance scheme for advocates 'totally unworkable' by refusing to engage with the assessment of candidates, a leading criminal solicitor-advocate has warned.
Ian Kelcey, senior partner at Bristol firm Kelcey and Hall, told the Law Society's criminal law conference last week that the QASA scheme 'will collapse under its own weight, as the judges won't want to do it'. He said that far from embracing the scheme, under which Crown court advocates are required to have their performance judicially assessed, most judges know nothing about it.
Kelcey said: 'In small, one- and two-judge centres, there'll be no take up of the scheme, and in other areas some judges don't want anything to do with it.'
He warned: 'You only need to have a few judges who say they don't want to do it, and it's totally unworkable.'
Kelcey also suggested that the proposal for Crown court trial advocates to be assessed during two trials in a year is unfeasible due to the limited supply of Crown court trials. 'The numbers don't add up,' he said. There would only be 11-12,000 trials for assessing 6-7,000 criminal advocates, barristers and solicitors twice within a year.
'If your trial doesn't stand up, you could have a problem,' Kelcey said. 'Advocates will be desperate to have a trial… and if the Crown Prosecution Service offers a plea it could raise tensions.'
A spokesman for the Judicial Communications Office said: 'The judiciary believes a system of quality assurance is necessary to ensure the ongoing competency of our criminal advocates. Judicial evaluation must be at the heart of any scheme.'