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QASA: Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (crime)

Q&A on the notification process

 

Updated 20 December 2012

Q1. What is QASA? Where can I find more information about QASA?

A. Further information on the proposed scheme can be found at www.sra.org.uk/qasa. If you have a specific question, please email qasa@sra.org.uk. We aim to respond to emails within five working days.

Q2. What is notification?

A. Notification is an important step in the SRA's approach to developing QASA. Notification allows us to gather valuable and accurate data from our regulated community on who is planning to enter the scheme, at which level and where they carry out the majority of their criminal advocacy work. This information will help inform the strategic development of QASA and ensure systems and processes are fit for purpose.

Q3. What do you mean by "criminal advocacy"?

A. We are currently using the following definition for criminal advocacy:

"Criminal advocacy" means advocacy in all hearings arising out of a police or Serious Fraud Office investigation, prosecuted in the criminal courts by the Crown Prosecution Service or Serious Fraud Office.

Please note that this definition is provisional and subject to the outcome of the fourth consultation exercise. Further details on the consultation exercise can be found at www.sra.org.uk/qasa.

Q4. What does notification involve?

A. It is the process in which solicitors and registered European lawyers wishing to undertake criminal advocacy notify us of their intention to enter the scheme and seek QASA accreditation once the scheme is launched. Solicitors are also be asked to indicate at which level they plan to enter the scheme and on which circuit where they undertake the majority of their criminal advocacy work. New notification regulations have been introduced to support the notification process.

Q5. Where can I find notification regulations?

 A. QASA notification regulations were published as part of Version 4 of the SRA Handbook.

Q6. Why is the SRA carrying out notification?

A. The SRA has a large regulated community. Notification provides us with an opportunity to understand more about the impact of the scheme. It enables us, without significant burden on individuals, to gather accurate data that will aid the internal design and development of QASA. Notification is also an opportunity to raise awareness and increase understanding of the scheme. It is for these reasons that we believe notification is an important process and critical to the successful implementation of the scheme.

Q7. Other regulators involved in QASA aren't carrying out notification. Why is the SRA?

A. QASA is a joint scheme and will be applied consistently across each regulator; however, the communities of each regulator are distinctive. It is accepted that, during the development of the scheme, individual regulators may choose to adopt different approaches to engaging with their regulated community. We are carrying out notification because it is an important opportunity for us to gather valuable and accurate data to help inform the internal design and development of QASA.

Q8. Is completing the notification form compulsory?

A. Only those solicitors wishing to conduct criminal advocacy and enter the scheme once it is launched need to complete the form. If you do not currently undertake criminal advocacy or do not plan to in the future, you are not required to complete the notification form.

Q9. Where can I find the notification form?

A. The notification form can be found at https://forms.sra.org.uk/s3/qasa. If you require a hard copy of the form, please contact us.

Q10. Where can I find guidance to help me complete the notification form?

A. Information to help you complete the form is available within the online form itself, in several questions below and at www.sra.org.uk/qasa.

Q11. What happens if I missed the original notification deadline?

A. If you did not complete the notification form before the 21st and wish to undertake to undertake criminal advocacy, please email qasa@sra.org.uk.

Q12. I am not sure whether I should check the box in Question 1 of the notification form. Can you help?

A. By checking the box, you are notifying us that you plan to enter the scheme and seek QASA accreditation once it is launched.

You should check the box if

  • you currently carry out criminal advocacy work,
  • you are planning to carry out criminal advocacy work in the future,
  • you have Higher Rights of Audience and are planning to carry out criminal advocacy work in the future,
  • you are thinking of applying for Higher Rights of Audience in the future with a view to carrying out criminal advocacy work.

Q13. During the notification period, I indicated that I wanted to enter the scheme. Now, I have now changed my mind. What should I do?

A. Nothing. Do not register once the scheme is launched if you do not plan to undertake criminal advocacy.

Q14. I currently do not carry out criminal advocacy work and don't plan to in the future. Do I need to complete the notification form?

A. No. Only those solicitors who currently undertake criminal advocacy work or plan to in the future should complete the form.

Q15. I didn't complete the form during notification but now wish to practise criminal advocacy. What do I need to do?

A. You have until 21 September to complete the notification form. However, if you decide you wish to carry out criminal advocacy after this point, please contact us. You will still be able to register once the scheme is launched.

Q16. I am not sure which level to choose in Question 3 of the notification form?

A. In thinking about the level at which you plan to enter the scheme, please read the descriptions of each level provided on the third page of the the online form. It will be helpful to think about the sort of work you have done over the past few years and how confident you felt in your own abilities in those cases. You will not be bound by the information you provide during notification. Please note that levels and types of cases are part of the fourth QASA consultation exercise.

Q17. My work is evenly spread across a number of circuits. I am not sure which circuit to choose?

A. If this is the case, you may want to think about which circuit you will be undertaking the majority of your criminal advocacy work in once the scheme is launched. You will not be bound by any information you provide at this stage.

Q18. What happens to the information I provide?

A. The information you provide through this form will be used in the continued planning and development of QASA.

Q19. Have you made reasonable adjustments for the form?

A. Yes. Solicitors who have notified us that they require reasonable adjustments will be sent the appropriate type of form. Please email qasa@sra.org.uk for further assistance.

Q20. Does notification apply to Local Authority Solicitors?

A. Whether you need to join the scheme depends not on where you work but on what you do. If, as part of your work, you are undertaking criminal advocacy, then you will need to enter the scheme. We are seeking views on the following definition of criminal advocacy within the fourth consultation:

"Criminal advocacy" means advocacy in all hearings arising out of a police or Serious Fraud Office investigation, prosecuted in the criminal courts by the Crown Prosecution Service or the Serious Fraud Office.

As part of this consultation, we are seeking views on proposals within the scheme that outline certain situations in which specialist practitioners would be permitted to undertake criminal advocacy within the above definition without being QASA accredited. The circumstances are broken down into two categories: firstly, where an advocate is appearing in a case with a hybrid indictment where the primary offences are not within the definition of criminal advocacy (i.e., financial regulation matters that include an element of fraud); secondly, where the advocate has been instructed to appear in a case in the criminal court within the definition of "criminal advocacy" as a result of their specialism.

Q21. Does notification and QASA apply to Crown Prosecution Service advocates?

A. The scheme covers defence and prosecuting advocates, and self-employed and in-house advocates. Therefore, if you are a solicitor working as an advocate for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), then you will need to notify us of your intention to the join the scheme once it is launched.

You should enter the scheme through the registration process at a level which you think reflects your capability. You will only be able to enter the scheme at Level 2 or above if you already hold Higher Rights of Audience (crime).

The CPS has a quality assurance framework for its in-house prosecutors. It is in the interests of those involved in advocacy that the regulatory scheme is compatible with the CPS approach, does not lead to duplication or unnecessary burdens upon advocates, and facilitates harmonisation. To that end, the advocacy standards and the categories of cases used in the scheme are aligned to those of the CPS.