Poor advocacy and a lack of specialist training is denying vulnerable young people justice, a critical report has claimed.

The study, commissioned by the Bar Standards Boards and CILEx Regulation, found the quality of advocacy in youth courts highly variable.

Advocates lacked specialist knowledge of the statutory framework for dealing with young people and were not always able to communicate appropriately with young defendants and witnesses.

It suggested that the formal nature of court proceedings and their adversarial nature can impede effective participation by young people, and time pressures linked to legal aid reforms lead to an ‘emphasis on swift justice which undermined genuine justice’.

It criticised the profession for undervaluing the important work of the youth court, seeing it as a place where young lawyers can ‘cut their teeth’, rather than a place where serious cases are often heard.

BSB chair Sir Andrew Burns said the regulator would work to improve the standard of advocacy by barristers representing young people.