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QASA challenge on its last legs


Court of Appeal: claimants have one last shot

The legal challenge to the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) is nearly at an end after the Court of Appeal refused permission to appeal the High Court decision that rejected it.

The four claimants challenging the Legal Services Board’s approval of QASA now have until next Wednesday to request an oral hearing of the application for permission.

In February, the permission to appeal its dismissal of the judicial review [2], saying there was no reasonable prospect of a successful challenge, and so the claimants applied directly.

In coming to the same decision, Lord Justice Laws said that many of the issues in the case were matters of judgement rather than law, “and the Divisional Court’s reasoning is nuanced, balanced and very careful”.

He continued: “Despite counsel’s comprehensive and elegant skeleton (which in some respects seeks to build legal points out of matters of judgement), in my view it betrays no arguable error of law.

“In particular, the Divisional Court’s approach to irrationality and proportionality (and the application of proportionality if, contrary to their view, it applied) is in my judgment plainly correct.”

Laws LJ rejected the suggestion that the controversial and sensitive nature of the case was in itself a compelling reason for it to be revisited by the Court of Appeal, saying “it has been so fully and fairly dealt with below that I have concluded that this is not required”.

He was also unmoved by the bid to appeal the £150,000 costs order, which was the maximum under the protective costs order that had earlier been imposed. “The costs order, which was of course consonant with the PCO, was within the generous ambit of discretion enjoyed by the court below,” the judge said.

Earlier this week, Legal Futures reported that just 100 solicitors and barristers [3] had so far registered for QASA; those practising on the Midlands and Western Circuits have until 30 May to do so.