A ‘significant’ number of barristers have resigned from the Bar Standards Board’s prosecutor panel in protest over the introduction of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates.

Chair of the Criminal Bar Association Nigel Lithman QC told his members that the move represents the ‘first sign of collateral damage’ in the QASA ‘mess’. Registration for the assurance scheme is due to begin today.

Lithman said a ‘substantial number’ of barristers give their service free to prosecute for the BSB. But he said: ‘An appreciable number have found it inappropriate that they should provide this service to regulators prepared to take, but unprepared to give.’

BSB director Vanessa Davies said she is ‘disappointed’ that some barristers have chosen to resign and has written to each one to express gratitude for their ‘invaluable past contribution’.

She said those who had resigned had given ‘a number of reasons’ for doing so. These include a dispute over a costs cap on the CBA’s application for a judicial review of the QASA scheme.

Lithman said the ‘unseemly litigation’ against the regulators is to go ahead and that the CBA has indemnified the action.

He criticised the BSB for not agreeing to waive costs in the action should they arise.

‘Not to do so shows a fundamental meanness of spirit, a singularly unattractive trait,’ said Lithman.

Davies said: ‘It is possible the BSB’s position has been misunderstood. The court will consider the question of whether to make a protective costs order in this case.’