Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA)

QASA is a joint scheme, developed by CILEx Regulation (then known as ILEX Professional Standards), the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board to assess and assure the quality of all criminal advocates appearing in courts in England and Wales. 

Representatives from each regulator form the Joint Advocacy Group (JAG), which is responsible for the strategic development and delivery of the scheme and to ensure it is proportionate, consistent and in the public interest.

JAG has also ensured that the scheme is consistent with the Regulatory Objectives set out in the Legal Services Act 2007. 

What is the aim?

QASA is designed to ensure that those involved in the criminal litigation process have confidence in the standard of advocacy and advocates. QASA will ensure that all advocates in criminal courts only deal with cases within their competence. This approach reflects CILEx Regulation’s commitment to protecting the public interest, and to the authorisation and supervision of specialist practitioners.

The aim is to ensure that the performance of all criminal advocates is measured against the same set of standards - developed as part of the scheme - regardless of the advocate's previous education and training. The standards will apply to four levels of criminal advocacy work: 
  • Level 1 involves work in the Magistrates Court, including Youth Court work;
  • Level 2 is the first level in the Crown Court and includes either-way offences where the Magistrates accepted jurisdiction but the defendant has elected a Crown Court trial, and straightforward Crown Court cases;
  • Level 3 is a Crown Court level and includes more complex Crown Court cases;
  • Level 4 is a Crown Court level and includes the most complex Crown Court cases.

Who is affected by QASA?

QASA relates only to criminal advocates. For the purposes of QASA:
“Criminal advocacy” includes advocacy in all hearings arising out of a police-led or Serious Fraud Office-led investigation and prosecuted in the criminal courts by the Crown Prosecution Service or the Serious Fraud Office but does not include hearings brought under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

The scheme will apply to all advocates undertaking criminal advocacy in England and Wales, whether barristers, solicitors, or chartered legal executives, whether self-employed or employed, and whether acting for the prosecution or defence.

Once the scheme comes into effect, any criminal advocate wishing to undertake criminal advocacy will require QASA accreditation. If you are a Chartered Legal Executive Criminal Advocate or an Associate Prosecutor, you will come under the scheme. 

As an advocate you will obtain QASA accreditation by successfully meeting the required standards for the level at which you have been assessed. You will be assessed against the standards at your level by either judicial evaluation or by an approved assessment organisation. 

You will be required to re-accredit every five years against the standards.

Further details on the proposed operation of the scheme can be found by reading the QASA Handbook.

When will QASA come into effect?

QASA was approved by the Legal Services Board in 2013, and registration opened for Chartered Legal Executive Criminal Advocates and Associate Prosecutors in September 2013. CILEx Advocates have already been registering under the scheme.

The implementation of the scheme had been on hold due to judicial review proceedings. The Supreme Court found that QASA was proportionate and lawful. The joint advocacy group is working to implement the scheme.

If you are a Chartered Legal Executive Criminal Advocate or Associate Prosecutor you can still register your intent to join the scheme by completing the registration process.

How QASA registration will affect you

Chartered Legal Executive Criminal Advocates

If you are a Chartered Legal Executive Advocate who has completed the first renewal of your Advocacy Certification in Criminal Proceedings, you will need to register with CILEx Regulation as a Level 1 advocate to obtain full accreditation. The closing date for registration will be notified after the appeal proceedings have concluded.
Under QASA, when it is fully in effect, newly qualified Chartered Legal Executive Advocates in Criminal Proceedings will be provided with provisional QASA accreditation until they have completed the first renewal procedure. They will gain full accreditation for five years on successful completion of the first renewal of their practising certificate.

Associate Prosecutors

If you are an Associate Prosecutor, you will need to hold a current practising certificate and register as a Level 1 advocate when QASA is fully in effect.
The Associate Prosecutor Rights of Audience and Litigation Certification Rules have been revised accordingly. 

If you require any further information on QASA or have any comments or suggestions, please contact us.