Introduction of the controversial Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) has been delayed, it was announced today.
In a statement issued this morning, the Bar Standards Board, ILEX Professional Standards and Solicitors Regulation Authority, via the Joint Advocacy Group, said the move came in response to the results of the fourth consultation on QASA.
It said: “As a result of the comments received in the many substantive and constructive responses, some adjustments of detail will be made to the scheme. The scheme will not, therefore, commence in January. A revised timetable will be confirmed by the end of January.
“In the meantime, JAG can confirm that the core elements of the scheme remain. These include: the framework for assessment, the central role of judicial evaluation, periodic re-accreditation and phased geographical implementation.”
However, there is no mention of the most contentious parts of the scheme, such as allowing solicitors to qualify under the scheme as plea-only advocates and the inclusion of QCs. These had led the Criminal Bar Association to threaten a judicial review. The Law Society, meanwhile, argued that QASA would drive solicitors out of criminal law.
A JAG spokesman would not comment further on these issues, but said: “We would like to thank all those who provided extremely helpful and detailed responses to the last consultation. This scheme is the one of the biggest changes to the assessment of advocates in many years and we need to ensure that we listen to those who have responded, to ensure we get the scheme right.
“While the debate has often been vigorous, this reflects our joint commitment to produce a workable scheme which meets the needs of legal consumers and takes account of the views of those whom we regulate.”
The Legal Services Board said it welcomed confirmation that there is agreement on a way forward for QASA. Chairman David Edmonds said: “We welcome the continued commitment of the SRA, BSB and IPS to progressing the QASA scheme. We look forward to seeing the final details of the scheme when they are issued early in the new year.”
Law Society President Lucy Scott-Moncrieff said: “We note that agreement has been reached. The Law Society remains very sceptical about the need for the scheme and about the appropriateness of judicial assessment. We will be monitoring the scheme closely and looking to support our members in achieving the standards and ensuring that it works fairly and appropriately.”