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Reassessments: Bar Standards Board asks QCA to look at re-accreditation for QCs

As the on-going dispute over its Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) rumbles on, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has asked that Queen’s Counsel Appointments (QCA) consider developing a system of re-accrediting criminal silks as the body seeks ways to ‘protect the public from poor standards of advocacy’.

Announced yesterday (23 March), the body said the potential for QCA to play a role in the ‘continuous quality assurance of QCs’ was previously proposed in March 2013 in response to comments raised during the final consultation for the unpopular QASA, a scheme proposing that barristers may only accept trials on a par with their assessed and graded advocacy abilities.

The BSB’s latest request also follows the regulator’s January board meeting in which it aimed to explore forms of protection from poor standards of advocacy. The BSB added that should QCA accept the request, the design of the QC re-accreditation scheme would be ‘at their discretion’ and the BSB would then consider what impact the QCA re-accreditation scheme had on QASA.

Other major proposals put forward by the BSB of late include placing chambers and employers back in charge of pupillage, after concerns of evidence of increasing costs throughout Bar training that would influence the range of people considering such a career. The body also recently set the minimum professional indemnity insurance cover for BSB-regulated business at £500,000.

On the latest request, BSB director of supervision Oliver Hanmer said: ‘As the barristers’ regulator it is our job to set up systems that safeguard clients from those advocates who are simply not as good as they should be, no matter their level of experience. We are resolutely committed to achieving this aim.

‘Criminal barristers are appointed QC because they consistently operate at the highest standards of advocacy. And, while we firmly believe it is not in the public interest to exempt QCs from quality assurance, we think QCA – should they accept our request – may be better placed than we are to deliver this process.’