Thursday 15 November 2012 by Catherine Baksi
The Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) is designed to split the legal profession in order to destroy it, the chair of the Criminal Bar Association alleged. Michael Turner QC said QASA is not being introduced to protect the public from 'rogue advocates', but as a necessary precursor to one case, one fee.
He said: 'The government knows full well that once they hand the purse strings to a single provider the bar will be offered a derisory amount to conduct a case. The result will be that many will give up.'
Speaking at the bar conference, he suggested that a simpler quality control method would be to introduce a traffic light system of regulation, whereby advocates with three judicial warnings are reported to the regulator on competency grounds. But rather than taking that route, he said the government's aim 'is very clearly to split the profession in order to destroy it', along with 'one of the best legal systems in the world'.
He added: 'Slashing our fees is just part of a long-term strategy designed to ultimately destroy the publicly funded bar,' he said, while the government uses the excuse that it is saving taxpayers' money.
Criticising other cost-cutting measures, he singled out the courtroom interpreter hub contract and the part-privatisation of the prison service. But he said: 'The reality is that the millions cut has saved the taxpayer not a brass farthing.'
In five years time, he warned, 'the public are going to wake up and find out that an important corner stone of their democracy has been stolen from them. They will never get it back.'
The CBA and solicitors are the only bodies that stand between the public and this destruction as their rights are being 'surgically removed', he said, and called on the bar to 'stop behaving like gentlemen and ladies', but to take direct action.