Advocacy quality is a matter for regulators, not government
1 December 2015
The Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) should be incorporated into any register of advocates established by the Legal Aid Agency, says CILEx Regulation, the independent regulator of specialist lawyers including criminal advocates.
Responding to Ministry of Justice proposals on the quality of criminal advocacy, CILEx Regulation says QASA provides independent, consistent and objective measures of advocates’ competence, and that quality assurance arrangements should be primarily a matter for regulators rather than public bodies.
The response argues that concerns raised regarding referral fees and choice of advocate are all able to be addressed through regulators’ existing Codes of Conduct. These set professional standards to deal with conflicts of interest between service providers and clients.
Procurement and funding decisions are matters for the MoJ but it should only proceed with the proposals which include creating new statutory offences, if there is clear evidence of need, particularly where they may result in the MoJ determining who may represent defendants.
On the other key issue of instructing in-house advocates, CILEx Regulation’s response makes it clear that preventing litigators from instructing in-house counsel will significantly reduce client choice, which is not in the public interest.
The submission follows the publication of an independent report, commissioned by CILEx Regulation and the Bar Standards Board, which reveals variable advocacy standards in the youth courts.