The Supreme Court has granted campaigners permission to appeal against the implementation of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).
But the court told opponents it will not hear any appeal on the grounds that the scheme infringes the independence of advocates.
The decisions were announced today and open another chapter in a long-running fight between regulators and advocates to bring in a new way of assessing competence.
The hearing has been provisionally listed for 16 March. The court said it is prepared to hear argument as to the correctness of the assumptions made by the Court of Appeal last year that QASA is an ‘authorisation scheme’. It will also hear an argument as to whether the appeal court’s approach was too narrow.
In May 2013 the Bar Standards Board, Solicitors Regulation Authority and ILEX Professional Standards proposed QASA, whereby criminal advocates wishing to exercise rights of audience at a higher level would be obliged to apply for accreditation. Accreditation would be dependent on assessments carried out by trial judges during trials conducted by the advocate seeking accreditation.
If refused accreditation, they would not be permitted to practice at a higher level.
The appellants, who are criminal barristers, sought judicial review of the decision to approve the proposed introduction of QASA.
The Court of Appeal threw out the challenge last October saying the scheme did not undermine the independence of the advocate or the judiciary and did not interfere with fundamental rights or constitutional principles.
The BSB last week announced it had already started to look for other ways of improving and assessing competence while it waits for progress on QASA.
In response to the notice, director general of the Bar Standards Board, Dr Vanessa Davies, said: ’The Supreme Court has allowed the claimants in the judicial review of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates to appeal against one aspect of the judgment of the Court of Appeal in relation to the provision of services regulations.
‘We are pleased to note that the Supreme Court has refused the claimants permission to appeal on all other grounds – including whether the scheme compromised the independence of the advocate – on the basis that they had “no real prospect of success”.’