A long-awaited judicial review of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) has been launched by criminal law barristers against the Legal Services Board (LSB).
The legal challenge is that QASA “offends fundamental issues of justice”.
Global law firm Baker McKenzie and two eminent public law QCs are reportedly acting pro bono in the proceedings, backed by the Criminal Bar Association (CBA).
Nigel Lithman QC, the new chairman of the CBA, said: “The life of the criminal barrister is being made unsustainable by a pincer movement seeking to impose a form of regulation and fee cuts that the criminal Bar will struggle to survive.
“Following advice from eminent public law counsel, Dinah Rose QC and Tom De La Mare QC and solicitors Baker McKenzie, who all wish to act for us pro bono proceedings backed by the Criminal Bar have been issued against the LSB, with the Bar Standards Board, Solicitors Regulation Authority and ILEX Professional Standards served as interested parties.
“QASA offends fundamental issues of justice. For instance the idea an advocate can act fearlessly with one eye on his client and the other on the Judge is an ugly notion.
“With our regulators unprepared to listen to us, this is where we have ended up. The lowest point for the Criminal Bar in my professional career.
“I have explained to the Lord Chancellor how our morale has been devastated. Our regulators have substantially contributed to this malaise. What a shame.”
An LSB spokesman said: “[The] LSB will respond to [the] JR in line with established procedures and will make every effort to limit the cost exposure of the legal profession to this action on behalf of the criminal bar.”
Dr Vanessa Davies, the BSB’s director, said: “We are pleased to note the claimants now agree that the BSB is not the defendant in this matter. We have nothing further to add at this stage.”