24 November 2014

What makes a good Youth Court advocate? Have your say.

24 November 2014

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) and Ilex Professional Standards (IPS) have today called on barristers' and chartered legal executives' experiences and expertise to help the regulators establish the skills and knowledge required to work effectively and competently in the Youth Justice System.

In an email sent out today the regulators invite criminal barristers and chartered legal executive advocates to get involved in an independent and rigorous review of Youth Court advocacy undertaken by the Institute for Criminal Policy Research at Birkbeck University of London.

Director General of the BSB, Dr Vanessa Davies said: "Advocacy in the Youth Courts is an area of especial concern because of the difficult balancing act in ensuring young, vulnerable people are properly protected and seeing to it that justice is still properly administered. The needs of young people are often complex and challenging, but that should not affect their rights to access justice. This review is crucial to our efforts to establish standards of practice and who better to tell us what makes a good Youth Court Advocate than those on the front lines of advocacy?"

Education Policy Manager for IPS, Dr Walter Riggans said: "We welcome the Carlile Report on the operation and effectiveness of the Youth Court, published in June this year, and the wider context that it provides. Chartered Legal Executive Advocates work with children and young people in Youth Courts, and whereas we have no concerns about their competence, if there are areas that would benefit fromenhancement, it is important that we learn this, so that we can develop our training appropriately. This reflects our commitment to protecting and promoting the public interest."

The study includes a range of research methods, including a short survey of advocates' perceptions and experiences, as well as anonymous interviews with those who actively practise in the Youth Courts. The review will take place over winter 2014 and spring 2015. The final report is due to be published in summer 2015.

Dr Jessica Jacobson, Co-Director of the Institute for Criminal Policy Research, said: "We are delighted to be conducting this important project on behalf of the Bar Standards Board and Ilex Professional Standards. Little systematic research has been conducted to date into the components of effective advocacy in youth proceedings. This project will help to fill this large knowledge gap with the aim of informing real and sustainable improvements in practice".

The aim behind the Youth Court Advocacy Review is to produce an evidence base from which the regulators can identify any existing risks within Youth Court advocacy, and establish what, if any, regulatory action needs to be taken.

 The review will cover a number of specific issues including:

  • advocates' awareness of young defendants' and witnesses' circumstances, and advocates' ability to take into account any particular disadvantages or vulnerabilities;
  • advocates' ability to communicate and engage with young defendants and witnesses, including those with speech, language, and communication needs, as well as any learning difficulties or disabilities
  • advocates' understanding of relevant safeguarding and child protection procedures and how these apply in the court setting.

The final report of the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into the Operation and Effectiveness of the Youth Court called for regulators like the BSB and IPS to require the accreditation of all legal practitioners representing children at police stations and in youth proceedings. The BSB welcomed the report when it was published earlier this summer. 

If you are an advocate practising in the Youth Justice System and would like to anonymously share your experiences with us, please get in touch with Amy Kirby, ICPR Research Fellow at al.kirby@bbk.ac.uk


Notes to editors

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate the Bar so as to promote high standards of practice and safeguard clients and 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 .


About Ilex Professional Standards

ILEX Professional Standards (IPS) regulates members of CILEx. It oversees the education, qualification and practice standards of Chartered Legal Executive lawyers and other CILEx members and ensures they maintain proper standards of professional and personal conduct.

Press enquirers should contact Richard Doughty on 01234 845710 or e-mail: rdoughty@cilex.org.uk

For more details about IPS visit www.ilexstandards.org.uk


About the Institute for Criminal Policy Research

The Institute for Criminal Policy Research is based in the School of Law at Birkbeck, University of London. ICPRcarries out independent research into all aspects of the criminal justice system, and produces work for a range of audiences including policy-makers and their advisers, criminal justice practitioners, and academics.