A divisive accreditation scheme for criminal advocates wishing to exercise rights of audience in the higher courts could be officially consigned to the history books as early as next week.
Bar regulator the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has applied to remove the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) rules from its handbook. Oversight regulator the Legal Services Board (LSB) is due to approve or reject the application by Tuesday (14 August) – unless it agrees to an extension.
QASA was originally proposed in May 2013 by the BSB, Solicitors Regulation Authority and CILEX Professional Standards.
Under the scheme, which was approved but not implemented, criminal advocates would be obliged to apply for accreditation. The idea was to tackle concerns raised by judges over the quality of advocacy. It proved hugely unpopular however and faced strong criticism. A challenge to the LSB’s approval of the scheme was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2015.
The BSB said in November last year that it no longer intended to proceed with the scheme. The SRA and CILEX have yet to officially outline their future plans.
In its application the BSB said it would ‘instead look to put in place a strategy that is more consistent with its risk and evidenced based approach to regulation’.
The BSB added that regulatory intervention remains necessary as there is ‘little to suggest’ that criminal advocacy standards have changed – citing joint research by the SRA and BSB into judge’s perceptions of advocacy standards. ‘What has changed is the approach to that intervention so that it fits more with the BSB’s regulatory methodology and regulatory good practice generally,’ the BSB added.