23 September 2019

BSB announces new regulatory approach to improve advocacy standards within Youth Courts

24 February 2017

At its Board meeting last night, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) agreed new measures to improve standards of advocacy within Youth Courts.

The regulator today published new guidance for barristers working in youth proceedings based on a set of essential competences that are expected of all advocates working with young people.

This represents the first phase of regulation in the light of the Youth Advocacy Proceedings research commissioned by the BSB and published in November 2015.

The BSB's phased approach will involve introducing compulsory registration later in the year for barristers practising in youth courts. Whilst there are examples of good practice in this area, standards are variable. Registration will allow the regulator to identify all barristers who are working in the Youth Courts and where necessary to take steps to ensure that they have the specialist skills, knowledge and attributes that are crucial when working with young people.

The BSB believes that this work is a priority, given the variable standards of advocacy the research found within the Youth Courts, and the vulnerability of the young people involved. It has worked with interested parties across the youth justice sector to develop these competences.

BSB Director of Regulatory Assurance Oliver Hanmer said: "As the recent report by Charlie Taylor for the Ministry of Justice also found, there is overwhelming support for further regulation in the interests of vulnerable young people in the justice system. We believe we have devised a proportionate approach to regulation which ensures that these young people can receive the quality of advocacy that they need whilst also recognising the demands that practising in the Youth Courts presents."

BSB Chair Sir Andrew Burns added: "Whilst these measures will, I believe, go a long way to addressing advocacy standards, I call upon the Ministry of Justice to look at the value that the justice system in England and Wales places more generally on Youth Court work in order to ensure that young people, at a very vulnerable moment in their lives, always have access to really competent representation."

Welcoming the BSB's announcement, Lord Carlile of Berriew CBE QC, member of the House of Lords, and expert in the field of youth justice said: "I welcome and support the new approach announced today by the Bar Standards Board to improve the standards of advocacy in youth court proceedings. They demonstrate a common-sense and workable way to tackle this very important problem within our justice system."

You can read the Youth Proceedings Competences and guidance here.


Notes to editors

Oliver Hanmer, BSB Director of Regulatory Assurance, is available for interview. Contact the BSB press office to arrange at the details below.

More important background about the new approach

The Board's decision is the culmination of an extensive programme of research and evidence-gathering dating back to the joint publication of research that it commissioned in this area in November 2015. That research highlighted mixed standards of advocacy in youth court proceedings. Since then, further evidence about the pressing need to address standards of representation in court for young people has been gathered, most recently through the Ministry of Justice's review into youth justice led by Charlie Taylor.

The BSB has been working hard to reach a consensus amongst the necessary parties on how best to tackle the problem. The new strategic approach, announced today, takes a deliberately phased approach to raise standards of advocacy in youth courts. This recognises the currently delicate state of the market for youth proceedings advocacy, and the need to take time in order for it to develop into a specialist area of practice that enjoys a similar status to other practice areas.

More about the youth proceedings competences published today

The newly published document outlines the key competences that barristers who undertake youth proceedings must meet. The competences themselves include specialist requirements in the following areas:

  • Law and procedure relating to criminal and youth justice;
  • Dealing with the vulnerability of young people;
  • Awareness of the background and needs of young people;
  • Communication and engagement; and
  • Awareness of the key organisations relevant to the youth justice sector.

The document contains further guidance for barristers and gives practical advice to consider when dealing with vulnerable young people.

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: http://bit.ly/1gwui8t

Contact: For all media enquiries call: 0207 611 1452 or email press@barstandardsboard.org.uk.