Law Reform

SAHCA Response to the JAG Consultation on proposals for a quality assurance scheme for criminal advocates

PUBLISHED November 11, 2010

SAHCA Response to the JAG Consultation on proposals for a quality assurance scheme for criminal advocates
In response to previous consultations on quality assurance, it is SAHCA's long held view that the highest standards of advocacy must be maintained and promoted by all higher court advocates. It is therefore with regret that we express our grave doubts about the nature of the QAA scheme outlined in the JAG?s consultation paper. The proposals are contrary to the principles of ?light touch? regulation, and go wholly against the present Government?s drive to  entrust professionals and private enterprise with the ability to pursue excellence. The Legal Ombudsman has  already recently added a level of consumer protection to legal services. The legal regulators should therefore be aiming to scale back rather than extending their remit. The proposed level of judicial involvement  in quality assurance adds another layer of concern, largely because of the  perceived potential loss of judicial independence . Add to this the sheer scale and cost of training Circuit Judges to perform this new role, and it quickly becomes evident that the QAA scheme is out of line with an era of reduced public spending.
We are therefore suggesting a wholly different approach to QAA.  All higher court advocates should be enabled to engage voluntarily in accredited training and assessment, provided by professional associations and legal training providers .There could be peer moderation between associations and providers, and a common standard to work towards, but advocates would be free to choose whether to undertake accreditation, and if so,  they could chose the course  most appropriate to meet their training requirements. It may be that the LSC would want to use the voluntary scheme for their own purposes, and quite probably make it compulsory for those seeking publicly funded work. Privately paying clients would remain free to choose their advocate as they saw fit. No doubt many would rely on the QAA ?kitemark? to inform them, but with costs as another guiding factor.