Carter Review spurs Bar Council to assess standards

The Bar Council has kick-started a consultation into how to ensure quality of courtroom advocacy following the Carter Review.

The measures that have been proposed include the introduction of a quality-assurance grading scheme for publicly funded advocates – an idea put forward by Lord Carter in his review of legal aid.

Geoffrey Vos QC, chair of the Bar Council, said “quality control” is necessary but will not be a threat to barristers’ independence.

“We must be able to produce evidence for our oft-repeated assertion that we provide the highest-quality advocacy and advice available anywhere,” he added. This grading system would work in parallel to a ‘Quality Assurance for Advocates’ scheme that the Legal Services Commission will propose and consult on in May, with a pilot to run from October.

The Bar Council, which represents 14,000 barristers in England and Wales, is also looking to set up a new Bar Quality Advisory Panel to provide non-disciplinary suggestions to barristers who have provided “below par” advocacy or advice.

The consultation paper comes as the Bar Standards Board (BSB) is gearing up for a major review into quality assurance from a regulatory point of view.

Proposals by the BSB are expected to include a requirement that barristers of four to six years’ call undertake three hours of advocacy training each year.

BSB chair Ruth Evans said it is clearly in the public interest that barristers reach an appropriate level of competence.

“No profession can afford to carry individuals who are sub-standard or who let the profession down,” she said.