The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has pledged to continue with preparations for the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) notwithstanding the judicial review against the scheme launched last week .
Meanwhile, Criminal Bar Association (CBA) chairman Nigel Lithman QC has criticised the BSB for its “mean” position over the costs of the JR.
The JR is being brought against the Legal Services Board, with the BSB, Solicitors Regulation Authority and ILEX Professional Standards served as interested parties.
In a statement issued yesterday, the BSB said the parties have agreed a timetable which will mean that, if permission is granted for the JR, the case can be heard and decided “well before any assessments are in fact made and indeed before the first phase of registration ends”.
The BSB said it had embarked upon drop-in sessions and other work in preparation for QASA before the JR application was launched. “QASA has been the subject of extensive consultation. The claimants have not sought a stay of the preparatory steps which are being made for the implementation of QASA.
“Having considered the matter carefully the BSB will continue with the preparatory work for QASA, which includes opening the scheme for registration on 30 September in the Midland and Western circuits.”
In his weekly message to members yesterday, Mr Lithman said the CBA has indemnified the action, while its lawyers are acting pro bono. Further, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and ILEX Professional Standards have indicated that they will agree to waive costs should they arise.
The BSB has not yet followed suit. He said: “Not to do so shows a fundamental meanness of spirit, a singularly unattractive trait. Perhaps they are banking on the fact that to continue to hearing might bankrupt the CBA? The CBA has some limited funds put by for a rainy day. It’s pouring.”
A BSB spokeswoman said: “It is not clear to us on what this assertion is based. We are not prepared to comment on the position of costs as this will ultimately be for the court to decide. In formulating any position on costs, the BSB will take into account the public interest and the interests of all the members of the regulated community.”