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SAHCA comments on “SRA to ask judges to spill beans on solicitor advocates”

Will Richmond-Coggan, chair of the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates, said the association has always welcomed measures to improve the quality of advocacy, 'provided that they are based on properly gathered evidence, and not just on a handful of partisan anecdotes (as the QASA scheme originally was)’

Link to full Law Society Gazette article 27 July 2017

https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/sra-to-ask-judges-to-spill-beans-on-solicitor-advocates/5062231.article#commentsJump

The Solicitors Regulation Authority is set to interview judges to see whether solicitor advocates in criminal proceedings are performing well enough, in a move that could hint at an eventual resurfacing of the controversial Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).

It is hoped that the interviews, which are part of the regulator’s research programme, will reveal whether clients are getting adequate representation and will attempt to address ‘long-standing’ concerns over the standard of advocacy. Solicitor advocates welcomed the move - but warned against reliance on 'partisan anecdotes'.

Crispin Passmore

Crispin Passmore

Plans for the research are revealed in papers for the SRA's 12 July board meeting, made public only today under the regulator's policy of excluding the public from its meetings.

The SRA said it would conduct ‘in-depth interviews’ with the judiciary to ‘understand their views on the quality of solicitor advocates and barristers across the required competences’.

 

Crispin Passmore, executive director for policy at the SRA, said there had been ‘long-standing concerns’ over the quality of criminal advocacy, including concern from senior members of the judiciary.

Passmore did not say whether the research could mark a return of QASA, though he said the scheme could still be implemented. He added that the regulator was waiting to see what the MoJ do with its consultation into a similar scheme before deciding on next steps.

Under QASA, which was a joint proposal by the BSB, SRA and ILEX Professional Standards, criminal advocates would be obliged to apply for accreditation in order to get rights of audience at a higher level. Whether or not accreditation is approved would be based on assessments carried out by trial judges. Both the High Court and Court of Appeal threw outchallenges to the scheme. The case then went to the Supreme Court, which also dismissed the appeal.

In 2015, the MoJ published consultation paper on the quality of criminal advocacy. The consultation closed in November of that year but the MoJ has yet to publish the outcome.

Passmore added: ’QASA could still be implemented but the research is about trying to get a sense of what the current perceptions of quality are and whether it is working. We will also be looking at youth courts and making sure the standards are high enough and that lawyers are not acting beyond their competence there.’

Will Richmond-Coggan, chair of the Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates, said the association has always welcomed measures to improve the quality of advocacy, 'provided that they are based on properly gathered evidence, and not just on a handful of partisan anecdotes (as the QASA scheme originally was)’.

He added: 'We confidently expect that any properly conducted research will reveal what we have always known: while there are a minority of barristers and solicitors practising beyond their capabilities, the vast majority of advocates in the criminal courts discharge their duties very capably, often in extremely difficult circumstances.’

Law Society president Joe Egan said judicial observations of advocates’ performance on any given day are 'far too subjective and are no substitute for methodologically robust research'.

He added: 'The Law Society is keen to support high quality advocacy by our members, for example through our Advocacy and the Vulnerable training. We will be happy to engage with the SRA on any other proposals they may have for maintaining high quality solicitor advocacy.'

 

The Lord Slynn Memorial Lecture by Sir Terence Etherton, Master of the Rolls: The Civil Court of the Future

The Lord Slynn Memorial Lecture was delivered at The Royal Courts of Justice on 14 June 2017.

The lecture was attended by more than 70 invited guests and SAHCA members.
They were welcomed by Will Richmond-Coggan, SAHCA Chair.
Sir Terrence Etherton , Master of the Rolls  and Head of Civil Justice delivered the lecture entitled:-
"The Civil Court of the Future"
Transcript

“The Bar often aren’t very good in the youth court – specialist solicitor-advocates are better”.

At a recent conference on Youth Justice the Vice Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, Angela Rafferty, said while discussing advocacy in the youth courts that “The Bar often aren’t very good in the youth court – specialist solicitor-advocates are better”.

The commentary accompanying this in the Solicitors Journal said “Senior barristers routinely claim that their solicitor-advocate counterparts are inferior courtroom lawyers.  Rafferty’s comments will confirm some suspicions that the jibes are borne more from commercial fears as the Bar feels increasing competition from the growing cadre of solicitor-advocates”.

Whilst it is always welcome to have recognition for the increasing competence of solicitor-advocates and their value to the smooth operation of the courts, the comment does underline the need for good and targeted training.  Young advocates, whether barristers or solicitor-advocates, need to gain experience but it is SAHCA’s view that in particular when dealing with vulnerable people this should not be an opportunity for advocates to “cut their teeth”.  It is a credit to solicitor-advocates and the training they receive that a Vice Chairman of the Criminal Bar Association should be so supportive and complimentary.

SAHCA offers specialist training in dealing with vulnerable witnesses and family law as part of its initiative to achieve excellence in advocacy.  This training is fundamental for anyone who is intending to practice in the youth court or be involved in dealing with vulnerable witnesses.  Hopefully, the next time Ms Rafferty speaks specialist solicitor-advocates will not only be better but the best!

Solicitors Journal 15 May 2017 full article

Use of Intermediaries for child defendants – a practical guide

Published by the Youth Justice Legal Centre this is a guide to who will benefit from an intermediary, what intermediaries do and how to get one for your client.

Use of Intermediaries for child defendants

Transforming Our Courts and Tribunals System and related consultations: Message from the Lord Chief Justice and Senior President of Tribunals

This morning, together with the Lord Chancellor, we published our joint vision for the future: “Transforming Our Courts and Tribunals System”. This document sets out a strategic narrative for reform which has the full support of the senior judiciary and the Government.

For the first time, the scope of our ambition, the drivers for reform, the principles underpinning our proposals and a description of the changes which are already underway across the jurisdictions, have been summarised in one accessible place. We encourage all of you to read it.

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division ‘Care Cases – The Looming Crisis’

VIEW FROM THE PRESIDENT’S CHAMBERS
Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division  'Care Cases - The Looming Crisis'
"We are facing a crisis and, truth be told, we have no very clear strategy for meeting the crisis."
Read the President's view of the response required to meet the inexorable rise in care cases here.

Access to justice 'very much at risk’ – Neuberger

The increased cost and complexity of litigation coupled with the shrinking of legal aid means that access to justice is 'very much at risk', the president of the Supreme Court has said. 

DLA appoints Picón as senior partner

Global firm DLA Piper has elected its Madrid-based corporate partner Juan Picón to take over as senior partner and global co-chairman at the start of May.

Government makes £10bn pledge to cut regulation

The public spending watchdog is investigating the effectiveness of government efforts to reduce regulatory burdens imposed on businesses.

Regional firm goes for John Lewis-style shared ownership

South-west firm Stephens Scown LLP is to operate under a John Lewis-style shared-ownership model, which will see receptionists receiving the same bonus as fee-earners, it revealed today.