Pressure is mounting on legal regulators to abandon the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates, with solicitors’ groups calling for it be ‘halted and binned’ a week before registration is due to start.
The Criminal Law Solicitors Association (CLSA) and the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates (SAHCA) have indicated that they may back a legal challenge to the scheme by the Criminal Bar Association and indicated that they may also join a boycott.
The first phase of registration for the scheme is expected to begin on the Midland and Western circuits next week (30 September). The regulators have indicated that they will press ahead despite the impending judicial review, the government’s announcement of a six-month review of criminal advocacy and votes by barristers to boycott the scheme.
Bill Waddington (pictured), CLSA chair, said QASA ‘serves no useful purpose’ and should be ‘halted and binned’. He called the ‘futile’ scheme a ‘regulatory nonsense’ and does not expect solicitors to sign up. ‘We should be standing with the bar to oppose it,’ he said.
Acting SAHCA chair Shawn Williams said ploughing on with a scheme that could turn out to be unlawful is ‘wholly inappropriate’.
He called for the process to be halted ‘as a matter of common sense’ but added that it is up to individual solicitors to decide whether they engage with the process.
A Solicitors Regulation Authority spokesman stressed that regulations for solicitors and barristers require all advocates intending to undertake criminal advocacy to be QASA-
accredited. ‘Individuals who choose not to enter into the scheme will be unable to undertake advocacy in the criminal courts,’ he warned.