12 July 2012

QASA fourth consultation goes live

The fourth and final consultation on the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (Crime) (QASA) goes live today, Thursday 12 July.

The scheme, due to be implemented in January 2013, will introduce a uniform system of accreditation for criminal advocacy work in the magistrates and crown courts. Its aim is to protect and promote the public interest, and that of consumers, in ensuring that all those undertaking criminal advocacy are competent to do so.

The Joint Advocacy Group (JAG), consisting of the Bar Standards Board (BSB), ILEX Professional Standards (IPS) and the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has launched the proposals on the final detail of the scheme including the revisions made since the last consultationclosed in November 2011.The paper takes into account further discussionswith key stakeholders such as the judiciary, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Criminal Bar Association and the Solicitors Association for Higher Court Advocates.

The previous consultations launched by JAG covered:

  • The advocacy standards against which the competence of advocates would be measured (2009)
  • Proposals for the development of QASA (2010)
  • The regulatory rules underpinning QASA (2011)

The consultation, which closes on 9 October 2012, will focus on issues not previously covered or those which have been altered since the last consultation. These include arrangements for accreditation at Level 2; the levels within the scheme (including youth court work) and phased implementation.

A spokesperson for the JAG said:"We believe that the current proposals for QASA will enable us to implement a single quality assurance scheme which applies equally to all criminal advocates and requires them to be assessed against a common set of standards.We welcome feedback on the final proposals.

"We are pleased to report that QASA has the support of the Lord Chief Justice and other senior members of the judiciary. At a meeting on 18 May 2012, the Council of Circuit Judges gave their continued support for the scheme and judicial participation within it.

"We have held meetings with judges in a number of court centres. These have been overwhelmingly positive and reflect the level of judicial commitment to the scheme."

The consultation coincides, with last week's launch on 2 July, of the new notification regulations. Under these rules, all solicitors, registered European lawyers, and chartered legal executives, have until 21 September 2012 to notify their regulators of their intention to seek accreditation within the scheme when it commences in January 2013.

The consultation, and further information on the scheme, is available on the QASA website, http://www.qasa.org.uk/.

The fundamentals of QASA are:

  • Advocacy standard against which all advocates will be assessed
  • Accreditation at one of four levels from Level 1 for work in the magistrates court to Level 4 for the most serious cases in crown court
  • Progression through the four levels is achieved by demonstrating competence to meet standards for the appropriate level. Advocates can remain at one level but need to be re-accredited every five years
  • Advocates' level and method of qualification will dictate how they must be assessed by one of three methods - CPD, independent assessment organisation, or judicial evaluation
  • Judicial evaluation will be the compulsory means of assessment for advocates undertaking trials at Levels 2, 3 and 4
  • Trained judges in the crown courts may assess advocates if they have concerns about performance and notify the appropriate regulator for consideration