27 March 2013

QASA fourth consultation report published

Today's publication of the report on the fourth QASA consultation reveals the changes that have been made in response to barrister feedback and consultation responses.

Over 350 people responded to the consultation and of those 97 agreed to have their responses published in full. However, the gist of all the responses is summarised in the report.

Chair of the Bar Standards Board Baroness Ruth Deech said:"The delay in publishing this report reflects how seriously JAG has taken the detailed feedback and that the Scheme has been amended to reflect many of the points raised.

"All comments were carefully considered not only throughout this consultation but during the development and previous consultations on the Scheme over the last 4 years.

"The report explains which further proposals we were not able to accommodate, either because they were minority views or would divert QASA from the legislative objectives that must underpin the Scheme. For example, we have decided to keep Silks within the Scheme and also to retain an assessment route for advocates who do not undertake trials because this will allow for all criminal advocates to be assessed under the same scheme against the same standards.

"Concerns about non-trial advocates were only expressed for the first time through the process of developing QASA. We now understand that this form of practice has operated for some time without any significant calls for regulatory intervention. The Bar Standards Board believes it is better to include non-trial advocates in the Scheme, and subject their practice to scrutiny alongside all other criminal advocates rather than to let it continue unchecked outside QASA.

"It is also important for the comprehensiveness of the scheme for silks to be included. Under the Scheme all criminal advocates will have to confirm their competence every five years and there is no compelling case for silks to be exempt from this requirement. However, following feedback the Scheme has been amended to include a level 4QC. This will highlight that in addition to having been accredited at level 4 by their regulator they have also been appointed QC   as a mark of excellence in practice.  Nevertheless, and in response to a number of comments raised in the consultation, the regulators have agreed to open discussions with Queen's Counsel Appointments (QCA) on whether there is scope for any continuing quality assurance role for their Office in the re-accreditation of QCs in the future."

The impact of QASA will be monitored and JAG has committed to review the Scheme in two years which will provide an opportunity to assess the success of the Scheme as well as identify any areas of improvement.

The publication of the handbook in June will set out the detail of the QASA process. From that date the Bar Standards Board will be organising road shows and seminars to ensure that everyone affected has a chance to ask questions and receive QASA support.

Background information and Q+As are available here.