The prospect of barristers boycotting the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates became almost certain on Saturday after all but one of more than 1,000 members of the South Eastern Circuit said they would refuse to sign up to it.
The chairman of the Criminal Bar Association has launched a wide-ranging attack on the government, Stobart Barristers, Bar Standards Board and the “muzzled” judiciary, while warning that plea-only advocates could damage the unity of barristers and solicitors against price competitive tendering.
The various attempts by the Coalition government to reform the delivery of legally aided criminal defence services have encouraged the legal profession to embrace two novelties: the extensive use of social media as a form of activism and a unity of purpose. Barristers and solicitors have been blogging and tweeting extensively on the proposed legal aid cuts, the introduction of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Adovcates, and the consultation on price-competitive tendering in recent months. The online medium has been embraced not only by representative groups like the Criminal Law Solicitors Association and the Criminal Bar Association but also by individual lawyers, for commentary, analysis and active dissent.
A last-minute Law Society bid to delay the controversial Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) until after the government’s consultation on price competitive tendering for criminal work was yesterday rejected by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The prospect of barristers striking over the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) has moved closer after two more circuits voted to support it. However, the Bar Standards Board has hit back at claims that QASA is linked to price competitive tendering.
David Wolfe QC of Matrix Chambers argues: We will never get close to having an “independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession” (which section 1 of the Legal Services Act 2007 sets as a regulatory objective for the regulators) if advocates providing a high-quality service to their clients remain undermined by others who are not even competent. Let’s not fool ourselves: we all know lawyers – including barristers, and including criminal advocates – who are just not up to it (perhaps they never were, perhaps they have lost their touch) at all levels, from magistrates’ court practitioners to QCs.
The prospect of industrial action over the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) moved a major step closer yesterday after barristers on the Northern Circuit overwhelmingly supported a boycott.
Criminal barristers are preparing to boycott the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA), but only if there is a pledge from counsel outside those circuits affected first not to step in and take the work.
The Bar Standards Board chair’s description of opponents of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates as “a noisy minority of dissenters” received an immediate high-powered response from criminal law barristers.
Criminal barristers’ steadfast objection to the inclusion of plea-only advocates in the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates will be viewed by the public as self-interest, the vice-chair of the Bar Standards Board has warned.