QASA: time for some embarrassment

The Master of the Rolls has given judgment in the QASA appeal where the barristers choosing to judicially review the LSB’s approval of the BSB’s scheme for QASA lost comprehensively.  The broad brush of reasoning seems to me to be: an acceptance that there is significant evidence that there are quality problems amongst criminal advocates and an absence of evidence that independence would be a problem. Such evidence would be difficult to establish (the Court to Appeal thought) but analagous processes exists which would also compromise independence if it was a problem and they have not been impeached on independence grounds by the Bar.  Also, perhaps most significantly, independence is not a principle that standards apart from things like competence. There was not crumb of comfort there for the losers other than praise for lawyers for the barristers for taking the barristers case pro bono.  I leave it to the reader to judge how impressed one should be by the bar and Baker & McKenzie pro bono-ing for its own with a case of such quality. Article 6 challenges to the legal aid reforms might be a better way to spend their time. I am sure even better ways than that can be offered.

The question still remains as to how long it will be before a QASA scheme is implemented and running.  It’s eight years since Lord Carter’s suggestion that there should be quality assurance for advocates was accepted by government.  The clock is still ticking on eight years plus of significant competence problems (if we accept the view of the Court of Appeal).  Each side of the dispute will be jubilant or outraged.  In truth, everyone should be embarrassed.

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About Richard Moorhead

Director of the Centre for Ethics and Law and Professor of Law and Professional Ethics at the Faculty of Laws, University College London with an interest in teaching and research on the legal ethics, the professions, legal aid, access to justice and the courts.
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