The Bar Standards Board (BSB) announced proposals to raise standards in the youth court so that it is no longer seen as a training ground for advocates but an area of specialism.

It followed research, commissioned by the BSB and CILEx Regulation last year, that found the quality of advocacy was ‘highly variable’, a lack of specialist knowledgeand training, and that the court was seen as a place for advocates to ‘cut their teeth’.

The BSB wants to establish youth court advocacy as an area of specialism, setting competencies and providing guidance on how to satisfy them. To improve performance, it is considering a range of options, from risk-based or sampled court visits to observe advocacy, to encouraging those who come into contact with a youth court advocate to bring concerns to the BSB’s attention.

Where identified, poor performance would be addressed by supporting the advocate to improve, with enforcement action reserved for the most serious or persistent cases. The BSB also plans to work with others in the youth justice sector to raise the status of youth advocacy work.

BSB director of supervision and authorisation, Oliver Hanmer, said: ‘The youth court deals with some of the most vulnerable people within the criminal justice system and the impact of poor quality advocacy is therefore grave.’ He said the BSB is committed to improving standards and making a positive difference to the lives of those who appear in the youth court.