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Criminal Bar Association brings judicial review over QASA advocacy scheme

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The Criminal Bar Association has launched judicial review proceedings over the introduction of the controversial Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).

Dinah Rose QC and Tom De La Mare QC of Blackstone Chambers have, along with law firm Baker & McKenzie, agreed to act on a pro bono basis for the association.

In a message to the association’s members earlier this week, CBA chairman Nigel Lithman QC said: “The well argued submissions by the Criminal Bar on the problems inherent in the proposed QASA scheme fell on ‘deaf ears’ as our regulators determined to plough ahead and impose it in its entirety.

“During the early summer Mike Turner QC therefore consulted solicitors and counsel, specialist practitioners in public law, for advice on the legality of the scheme. They advised that QASA was open to legal challenge for reasons far broader and fundamental than the legitimate objections already raised by the Criminal Bar.”

Lithman said the respondents served were the Legal Services Board, which gave final approval for QASA in July, with one of the other interested parties being the Bar Standards Board.

“As the Criminal Bar all wear the badge that says ‘No to QASA’ on their lapels or in their hearts, this is an inevitable step, albeit of course success is not guaranteed,” he said.

Last month the Joint Advocacy Group – comprising the Bar Standards Board, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and ILEX Professional Standards – published the official handbook for QASA.

This was ahead of the scheme’s phased introduction over the next 12 months. It will be introduced first in the Midlands and the South West circuits on 30 September running through to 7 March 2014. Other circuits will be covered by the scheme next year.