Courts: Midlands and Western Circuits to start accreditation process

The Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) will start in September, nine months later than planned, it was announced yesterday.

The revised timetable was released just hours before heads of chambers met to discuss their response to QASA.

QASA had originally been due to start in April 2012 and was then postponed until January 2013. Last month the three regulators behind QASA – the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board and ILEX Professional Standards, together the Joint Advocacy Group (JAG) – announced that they had reached agreement on the shape of the scheme, with some changes to the detail being made, but were delaying its implementation.

JAG said that in developing the timetable it made provision for adequate time to communicate with the profession on the detail of the scheme and what will be expected of advocates who come within it.

The first phase of QASA will run from 30 September to 10 January 2014, the accreditation period for the Midlands and Western Circuits. This will be followed by the South Eastern Circuit (10 March 2014 to 13 June 2014) and then the North East, Northern and Wales and Chester Circuits (30 June 2014 to 3 October 2014).

The phase during which an advocate should seek accreditation will be determined by which is the principal circuit covering the region where they practise.

Ahead of implementation, the changes to the scheme will need to be approved by each of the regulators and then by the Legal Services Board, which JAG said would receive the application at the beginning of May. The scheme handbook will be published on 17 June.

During this period and following the heads of chambers meetings, the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) will hold an extraordinary general meeting to debate whether to take action over QASA. A newly established CBA blog has already seen support from several barristers for direct action.

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