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Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates - Solicitor advocates urged to notify the SRA

Solicitors and Registered European Lawyers in England and Wales wishing to undertake criminal advocacy from January 2013 will have to officially notify the SRA under the new Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (Crime) (QASA) arrangements.

The notification process is the first step in becoming recognised under the Scheme which is due to be launched early in the New Year. The Scheme will introduce a system of accreditation for criminal advocacy work in the Magistrates' and Crown Courts.

The SRA will be contacting the profession in the next few weeks to ask those wishing to become accredited to express their interest from 2 July this year when the SRA’s Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (Crime) Notification Regulations come into force. The deadline for notification is 21 September 2012.

Once the Scheme launches, solicitors and RELs will need to register with the SRA in order to obtain their accreditation at one of four levels.

Provided they are registered, all solicitors and RELs will be eligible to enter the Scheme at Level 1 enabling them to undertake criminal advocacy in the Magistrates’ Courts; those with Higher Rights of Audience (Crime) will be able to enter at Levels 2, 3 or 4 to undertake work in the Crown Courts.

Once accredited in the Scheme, advocates will be able to move from one level to another by a process of formal assessment, and will also need to seek reaccreditation once every five years.

Richard Collins, SRA Executive Director said: "We will be writing to the profession about QASA during the next few weeks to make them aware of the impact QASA will have on the way in which they exercise their rights of audience in the Magistrates' and/or Crown Courts.

"We have developed QASA over the past two years working with colleagues in the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and ILEX Professional Standards (IPS) . During that time we have held three consultations, two in 2010 and one in 2011. A fourth and final consultation will be released between July and October setting out the final proposals on the key details of the scheme prior to its launch. Stakeholders will be encouraged to give us their feedback at that stage.

"The aim of QASA is to protect and promote the public interest and that of consumers in ensuring that all those undertaking criminal advocacy are competent to do so, whether it involves making a bail application in the Magistrates’ Court or conducting a murder trial in the Crown Court."

More information.