BSB issues statement after Twitter confusion over judicial review costs

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has issued a statement about the costs of a judicial review into the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA) following widespread outrage and confusion on Twitter.

Earlier this week The Lawyer reported that Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) had submitted a £400,000 cost estimate for defending a judicial review against the Legal Services Board (LSB), who planned to pass the new grading system for crim in al advocates (9 October 2013).

Though Mr Justice Ouseley decided to grant the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) claimants a Protective Costs Order (PCO) and mutually cap the fees at £150,000, misunderstandings proliferated on social media with lawyers furious about a perceived £450,000 bill to be footed by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

The BSB is the first interested party in the case, meaning that it would have to pay costs if the CBA appeal was succesful – but this would not exceed the £150,000 cap.

HSF were dropped from the case following their estimate but the news prompted fury from the South Eastern Circuit (@SECircuit) who tweeted: “The BSB want to spend 450k on a 2 day hearing to defend QASA. The same money wld buy a 6-handed QC+jnr *5-month* murder trial on LA rates.”

E a rlier it had tweeted: “Don’t forget we fund the BSB from our practicing [sic] certificates, so looks like we will pay the BSB’s costs one way or another.”

The statement issued by the BSB this morning said: “ The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is aware of a number of misleading and inaccurate statements regarding the costs associated with the judicial review of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).

In the event of an order for costs being made in favour of the claimants against either or both the defendant (the LSB) and first interested party (the BSB), the judge shall apportion the costs be paid, within the cap, between the LSB and the BSB.”

But some were not placated by the BSB’s response. Aggrieved Tweets included: “So the BSB is going to spend £000s instructing a commercial silk (?) to argue that criminal barristers should…sign up to a flawed scheme, including plea-only advocates that will be the death of the Bar, and make us pay costs? You couldn’t make it up.”

Another said: “£150K – still a lot of money. It’s a matter of public interest of both sides. Why the aggressive stance on costs?”

As a first interested party the BSB is likely to be a key presence in the QASA case. In the statement it said: “Given the nature of the submission and the status of the claimants, the BSB is likely to be required to play a significant role in assisting the court with information about the development of QASA. It is therefore appropriate for the BSB to be suitably represented. We anticipate our reasonable legal costs may be in the region of £100,000.”

The cost battle in the QASA case forms the crux of several key debates in the law over the public funding of criminal litigation. It has also drawn a line in the sand between different factions within the legal profession.

On 11 November, the hearing window opens for the expedited case bought by the CBA, which has advised Baker & McKenzie partner Joanna Ludlum, instructing Blackstone Chambers’ Dinah Rose QC and Tom De La Mare QC. Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) senior partner Matthew Lohn has taken on the case for the LSB instructing 11KBW’s Nigel Giffin QC.