Criminal advocates representing clients are generally competent but some standards are slipping, professional regulators have claimed 11 months after they asked judges to assess advocates’ performances in court.

A report jointly published by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board today summarises the views of 50 judges on the quality, provision and regulation of criminal advocacy - whether conducted by barristers or solicitors.

Overall the report finds that while the quality of advocacy is 'generally competent’ there is room for improvement, such as in core courtroom skills including case preparation and dealing with witnesses. However, advocates’ skills in dealing with young and vulnerable witnesses are generally improving.

The report also notes that solicitor-advocates and in-house barristers were 'less well reviewed’ [by judges] than members of the independent bar. The judges explained this apparent disparity by referring to differences in the training of barristers and solicitor-advocates and the narrower professional experience of in-house advocates.

Further, the judges said they perceived standards to be poorer than when they had practised as advocates themselves.
 Of the 50 judges, four had been solicitors 'for at least some of their professional career’, the report notes.