Time to end part of our problems and do so in a way that will move the debate to where it belongs: how to uphold access to Justice and allow the criminal bar to survive.
QASA is here to stay. I do not rule out some late amendment, but the chances are falling away.
What is crystal clear is that if we do not join it, we cannot practice. It really is as simple and terrible as that. We can disrupt courts and in that process, other peoples’ right to access, but it is coming. Full stop. End of argument.
The key weakness of our principled and honourable stand is that
at this point, we have not our own agreed alternative quality
assurance scheme in place.
So here is my solution. Or if you prefer, the blindingly obvious way forward to restore sanity, provide a real assurance for the public and put us into an unassailable public perception of integrity and quality. Three simple steps.
1. The bar must devise AT ONCE its own quality assurance scheme worthy of the name. I suggest AKM: an Advocacy Kite Mark.
That scheme can be achieved by a meeting of the chief officers of the Bar, the Circuit Leaders and the Chairman of the CBA deciding whether it should be led by the Inns and/or the Circuits. Then it must be ratified by the Bar Council. The key point is speed: it MUST be ready for purpose before QASA is due to begin.
2. The Bar should then say to the regulator that we will now advise our members to join QASA, but at the same time every barrister will be subject to a much higher professional standard.
3. At the conclusion of the two year review period which the Bar Standards Board have already announced for QASA, the Bar will contend that they have in place a patently better system. Then it will be time for a negotiated change to bring in proper quality assurance for the Bar. Over the two years we can have user panels to monitor the two processes.
Now this is why such a scheme will work and also allow us to fight on where it really matters.
First, the BSB cannot possibly object to a system running coincidentally with their own, which patently is seeking to impose higher standards. Indeed to be fair to them, I predict that they would welcome it.
Second, we can all stop tearing ourselves apart, friend against friend, simply over regulation, and get on with combating the huge challenge of ameliorating terrible cuts and saving if possible the solicitor’s guillotine. That is a huge public relations battle that is yet to be won and I shall continue to offer as much help as I can.
The Lord Chancellor told the Circuit Leaders that QASA was an irrelevance to him. Let us make it an irrelevance to us in a much bigger fight.
PLEASE bite the bullet and save the bar.
The new badge should be YES TO AKM
Advocacy Kite Mark
That is a badge which we must earn and then wear with pride.
Nigel Pascoe QC