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QCs face compulsory reaccreditation under new advocacy scheme

12 August 2010

The most experienced criminal advocates in the country will be subject to compulsory reaccreditation every five years under plans for a joint quality assurance scheme launched this week by the Bar Standards Board, the SRA and ILEX.

“Queen’s Counsel will not be exempt from the reaccreditation process,” the Joint Advocacy Group (JAG) said in its consultation paper. “JAG believes that it is important for the credibility of the scheme for QCs to be involved.

“The award of a mark of excellence by an independent body is separate from a regulatory quality assurance scheme which is assessing threshold standards.”

The move towards joint monitoring follows stinging criticism of the quality of solicitor advocates last year by the former chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, Peter Lodder QC, and by Judge Gledhill QC at Southwark Crown Court (see solicitorsjournal.com, 21 April 2009).

A spokesman said the JAG scheme would build on existing frameworks for entry into criminal advocacy, but would be managed by an independent body. The aim would be to introduce the new scheme by July 2011.

The consultation document said the name of the new body had not been chosen but its working title was the Performance of Advocacy Council (PAC), and it would be chaired by a senior criminal judge.

Advocates at all levels would be subject to compulsory reaccreditation every five years, either by judicial evaluation, other methods such as portfolio or live assessment, or by refresher courses.

The reaccreditation of the most senior advocates would be by written judicial evaluation.

To tackle the issue of poor performance, the new scheme would require judges to operate a ‘traffic light’ system of warnings or concerns. An advocate who received at least two formal reports from the judges would be referred to PAC for retraining.

In the past, the consultation paper said judges had been reluctant to identify sub-standard advocacy, and they would have to be “encouraged to participate” in the scheme.

Antony Townsend, chief executive of the SRA, said: “This is the first time the three regulators have come together for the purpose of providing a unified approach to training and assessment of all criminal advocates.

“The proposals in the consultation are designed to provide a single, clearer, simpler yet robust system for the public to be assured of the advocacy skills of barristers, solicitors and legal executives.”

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