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Moses LJ attacks 'marking and measuring' of advocates under QASA

14 February 2012

Lord Justice Moses has launched a stinging attack on the assessment of criminal advocates by judges proposed under the QASA scheme.

“There is, I suggest, cause for a profound unease in the notion that, in the very trial which you face as an accused, your advocate has asked to be assessed,” he said.

“What effect is that going to have on your brief? Is she on your side or just trying to mollify the judge? Surely the last thing we want is defensive advocacy.

“The need to be marked, to move up a level or maintain one’s grade is, I believe, deeply inimical to the proper relationship between advocate and judge and, more importantly, the trust the client has in that relationship.

“The accused must believe that his brief will tell the judge to go to the devil, if that is what his case demands.”

Delivering the Ebsworth Lecture at Middle Temple last night, Lord Justice Moses warned that the “regular day-in and day-out marking and measuring of the average advocate” would be “fraught with difficulty” and damaging to the relationship between advocate and trial judge.

“So I suggest that the criminal trial judge is far from the consumer of the criminal advocate’s services,” he said.

“If advocates behave as though they are seeking to impress the judge with their wares, or, as the minister Bridget Prentice, who believed that legal services were a product to be available to the consumer off the shelf, would have it, proffer the judge a tin of baked beans, they may well not be doing their job.”

Instead Moses LJ suggested the creation of “academies of advocacy” in which the Inns of Court took the lead in providing compulsory training.

“It is a sad feature of the Inns of Court that they figure in the lives of the young and the old but play so little part in maintaining and improving those in between.

“If, as I believe, they have the skills and the facilities to teach the beginner, those should also be deployed to all advocates those whom the public and the BSB demand should maintain their expertise and improve.”

Des Hudson, chief executive of the Law Society, said the society agreed with Moses LJ’s concerns.

“We have long been concerned that the involvement of judges in assessing the advocates in front of them will cause considerable difficulties for advocates in advancing the interests of their clients,” Hudson said.

“It is also inevitable that the ratings will be used in appeals. The Law Society supports a proportionate system of quality assurance for advocacy but we doubt that this is the way of achieving it.”

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Education & Training The Bar