“We came to the clear view that the arguments advanced by the claimants were simply not made out and that the Legal Services Board (along with the regulators) were entitled to conclude both that concerns about advocacy standards required regulatory action and that the scheme proposed was within its powers, not flawed by illegality or irregularity and was proportionate.”

“Professional concern about the impact of QASA may have justified commencing
these proceedings but does not, in our view, justify them being taken further.”

The four claimants – criminal barristers indemnified by the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) and represented pro bono by Dinah Rose QC and Tom de la Mare QC, a team of juniors and solicitors from Baker McKenzie – were given a short deadline in which to appeal. They were ordered to pay £112,500 towards the costs of first defendant, the LSB, and £37,500 towards the costs of interested party, the Bar Standards Board (BSB). The CBA has been raising donations from its members following the £150,000 costs cap set by the High Court in October last year. Other interested parties had agreed not to seek costs.

Welcoming the judgment, the LSB said it looked forward to “seeing QASA being implemented in the measured way set out by the Joint Advocacy Group, allowing for its continued development and evaluation in the light of practical experience and the helpful guidance offered by the High Court.” 

However, CBA Chairman Nigel Lithman QC confirmed that the claimants have sought leave to appeal the Divisional Court judgment from the Court of Appeal. “With matters of such fundamental concern to both the legal profession and public, it is right that these issues be considered at the highest level,” he said.

Bar Standards Board Director Dr Vanessa Davies said: “We are disappointed that they have decided to do this. Whether permission to appeal is granted is of course a matter for the court to decide. The BSB will resist any appeal and we understand that other parties will also do so.
“Assuring the quality of professionals is commonplace and QASA is about offering a minimum assurance to the public about the quality of the advocates working in the criminal courts, sometimes dealing with vulnerable people. We continue to believe it is in the public interest for the scheme to be implemented.”

Despite rejecting each of the challenges advanced by the claimants (see Counsel January p 6), the court had been “prepared to trespass” into the regulators’ area in order to “reduce the concerns that the Claimants have advanced (which we accept are entirely genuine)”. It put forward four suggestions for improving the scheme which have now been adopted.

The court had also recorded its “gratitude to the solicitors and counsel for the claimants for acting pro bono, and with their customary skill and determination, in the best traditions of the legal profession”.

Seventeen barristers have so far signed up to the scheme, a BSB spokesman confirmed.