A number of barristers have resigned from the Bar Standards Board’s prosecutor panel in protest at the imminent launch of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).
They include a group of seven barristers from 18 Red Lion Court, while a further two from the set will reconsider their positions after fulfilling fixed hearings in their diaries which they feel professionally obliged to undertake.
Writing in his weekly e-mail to members, Nigel Lithman QC – chairman of the Criminal Bar Association – said resignations were the first signs of “collateral damage in this mess”.
He said: “A substantial number of barristers prosecute for the BSB, to ensure proper standards are enforced. As happens again and again in what we do, the service and many hours of work entailed are provided pro bono.
“An appreciable number have found it inappropriate that they should provide this service to regulators prepared to take, but unprepared to give. Hence a significant number of highly principled individuals have resigned.
“Who can have anything but respect and admiration for this decision? The CBA understands, approves of and supports their stance. These are silks and juniors whose standing and integrity cannot be impugned.”
BSB director Dr Vanessa Davies said: “Obviously I am disappointed that a number of barristers have chosen to resign from the BSB’s prosecutor panel. I have written to each of them to express my gratitude for their invaluable past contribution.”
Ms Davies said those resigning gave “a number of reasons for doing so”, including references to the position on costs in the QASA judicial review, with the CBA having criticised the BSB for not agreeing to waive costs should an order arise. “It is possible that the BSB’s position has been misunderstood,” she said.
“The court will consider the question of whether to make a protective costs order in this case. The claimants, the Legal Services Board (as defendant) and the BSB as an interested party have written to the court regarding costs. This is a matter for the court to decide.
“The BSB has now written twice to Baker & McKenzie, who are acting for the claimants and the CBA, offering to discuss a suitable costs cap: there was no response to this suggestion.”
Ms Davies said that while the BSB did its best to explain the rationale for its decisions to barristers, “we cannot shirk [our statutory obligations] because members of the Bar disagree with us, even if we very much regret the loss of the contribution that has been made to our work by those members of the Bar.”