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The Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (Crime) - Latest News
22 June 2012
I am writing to all solicitors whom the SRA regulates about the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) as it will have an impact upon you if you exercise your rights of audience in the Magistrates Courts and, if you have your Higher Rights of Audience (Crime), in the Crown Courts.
As you may be aware from recent media coverage, the SRA has for the past two years been working with colleagues at the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and ILEX Professional Standards (IPS) on the creation of a quality assurance scheme for all advocates undertaking work in the criminal courts.
The aim of the Scheme is to ensure that all those undertaking criminal advocacy are competent to do so—whether making a bail application in the Magistrates’ Court or conducting a murder trial in the Crown Court. There has for some time been considerable concern about the standards of advocacy in the criminal courts and the SRA’s focus has been on developing a scheme which will protect and promote both the public interest and the interest of consumers.
The Scheme has already been the subject of three consultations (two in 2010 and one in 2011) and there will be a fourth and final consultation from July to October of this year which will set out the final proposals on some of the key detail of the Scheme.
The Scheme will introduce a system of accreditation for criminal advocacy work in the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts. All solicitors and registered European lawyers (RELs) will be eligible to enter the Scheme at Level 1 which will enable them to undertake advocacy in criminal cases in the Magistrates’ Courts. Those with Higher Rights of Audience (Crime) will be able to enter the Scheme at either Level 2, Level 3 or Level 4 in order to undertake work in the Crown Courts. Once accredited in the Scheme, advocates will be able to move from one level to another by a process of formal assessment and will also need to seek reaccreditation once every five years.
Launch of the Scheme will commence in January 2013 when advocates will be required to register with their regulator and thereafter to be assessed in order to obtain their accreditation. Before that date, on 2 July 2012 the SRA’s Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (Crime) Notification Regulations 2012 are due to come into force. These will require all those solicitors and RELs who undertake criminal advocacy and will eventually be seeking accreditation within the Scheme, at whatever level, to notify us of their intention to do so. Accordingly, if you are a solicitor or REL who wishes to be able to undertake criminal advocacy in the next five years, you will have from 2 July 2012 until 21 September 2012 to notify the SRA of your intention to enter the Scheme, using the Notification form which will be available at https://forms.sra.org.uk/s3/qasa from 2 July 2012.
The Notification Regulations are included in Version 4 of the SRA Handbook, published on 21 June 2012.
More information on the Scheme, including details of a forthcoming webinar scheduled for Thursday, 5 July 2012, and full details of the Notification Regulations can be found on the SRA’s website at www.sra.org.uk/qasa.