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Watchdog warning over advocate plans

Watchdog warning over advocate plans

Plans for new quality assurance regulations for criminal advocates have been attacked by a watchdog that believes it puts too much emphasis on the views of judges.

The Solicitors Association of Higher Court Advocates (SAHCA) has warned that the proposed measures create an "over-reliance" on the judicial evaluation proposed in the criminal advocates scheme (QAA).

The QAA initiative is currently undergoing a consultation period.

Joint Advocacy Group, which comprises the Bar Standards Board the Solicitors Regulation Authority and ILEX Professional Standards, is behind the scheme that proposes a common set of standards for criminal advocates.

Under the new guidelines there would be four levels of competence ranging from magistrates' court cases to more challenging Crown court cases.

Advocates hoping to climb the different levels will have their performance scrutinised under judicial evaluation before they are able to take on the more complex work.

Yvonne Spencer, acting chair of SAHCA, said: "The over-reliance on judicial evaluation in the proposed scheme is problematic for several reasons.

"Historically, there has been a bias towards the bar by judges, given their background, and this may act to prejudice solicitor-advocates.

"We are in favour of driving up quality standards, but there must be parity with the bar."

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