As reported in Legal Futures , the much delayed Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) – originally scheduled for implementation in December 2011 – is still showing no sign of movement.
QASA has been described as “the only way” to protect all members of the public involved in criminal proceedings “at an upper level” but has been plagued with interruptions and delays. The latest delay sees the profession awaiting the government decision on whether it will set up an overlapping panel of defence advocates which the government believes will “provide valuable quality assurance and enable the government to have greater confidence in the quality of publicly funded defence advocacy”.
The principle behind the scheme it that it is intended to assess and assure the quality of criminal advocacy in the courts in England and Wales and ensure that the performance of all advocates is measured against the same set of standards, regardless of an advocate’s previous education and training.
Kaplan Altior’s  senior training consultant Roy Morgan, specialising in advocacy, said:
“QASA and other options for assessing the quality of advocacy in the higher courts have been in the pipeline for some time. Whether any of them come to fruition or not remains unclear. What is becoming apparent however, are the clear benefits in securing the Higher Rights of Audience qualification now, allowing newly qualified solicitor advocates to gain valuable experience in advance of any system that may be introduced.”
Commenting on the benefits of qualification now rather than waiting for QASA to be approved, Mr Morgan said,
“Given the already long delays and uncertainty, coupled with the knowledge that there is little, if any, profit to be made from magistrates court work, most criminal practices up and down the UK have recognised for some time that the future is in the Crown Court and are therefore looking to keep as much work as possible in-house.”
The profession now needs to consider what the alternatives are if QASA or any other scheme fails to be introduced. He added:
“If any sort of judicial evaluation is introduced, as envisaged in QASA, already gaining the Higher Rights of Audience qualification, and being confident of using it, will ensure that solicitor advocates are ‘trial capable’ and have a distinct head start in the process”.
Commercial awareness in criminal work clearly dictates that advocates need to be able to conduct work in the Crown Court. Our HRA course  will prepare advocates for the assessment process to obtain the qualification.
Those who complete the HRA course will gain experience and confidence in many aspects of Higher Court advocacy including;
- Trial strategy planning and trial preparation
- Cross –examination techniques; top tips and feedback exercises
- Conducting PTPH; prelim applications (e.g. bad character; hearsay; special measures; ) and skeleton arguments
- Opening/closing speeches and judges directions; court etiquette-“The little things that trouble you”
- Dealing with Experts; “How to win your case without going into Court!”
Be prepared to conduct Higher Court advocacy and have less to fear from any assessment system that may be introduced.