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BSB asks QC appointment panel to consider QASA-like scheme

Bar regulator says it is not in the public interest to exempt QCs from quality assurance

23 March 2015

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The regulator for the barrister profession has requested that Queen's Counsel Appointments (QCA) consider developing a system of re-accrediting criminal silks.

The move follows an announcement in January from the Bar Standards Board (BSB) that it planned to explore other ways to protect the public from poor standards of advocacy.

Explaining the rationale behind the decision, the director of supervision for the BSB, Oliver Hanmer, commented: 'As the barristers' regulator it is our job to set up systems that safeguard clients from those advocates who are simply not as good as they should be, no matter their level of experience. We are resolutely committed to achieving this aim.'

The potential for QCA to play a role in the continuous quality assurance of QCs was previously proposed by the BSB in March 2013 during the consultation for the contentious Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).

The controversy surrounding QASA has led to a lengthy legal challenge by barristers, who have recently been granted permission to appeal the Legal Services Board's (LSB) approval of the scheme to the Supreme Court.

The appeal will consider whether the Court of Appeal erred by failing to appreciate the effect of regulation 14 of the Provision of Service (POS) Regulations 2009, which implemented the 2006 Services Directive.

'QASA is devised to assess minimum standards of competence that advocates should be able to demonstrate so as to practise safely and competently in criminal trials, which, by their nature, can have serious consequences for often very vulnerable people,' said Hanmer.

'Criminal barristers are appointed QC because they consistently operate at the highest standards of advocacy. And, while we firmly believe it is not in the public interest to exempt QCs from quality assurance, we think QCA - should they accept our request - may be better placed than we are to deliver this process.'

The BSB confirmed that should the QCA accept its request, the design of a QC re-accreditation scheme would be at their discretion.

The BSB said it would then consider what impact, if any, QCA re-accreditation had on QASA.

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