To stop the bitching forever that solicitor-advocates aren’t quite the real deal and to stop the suspicion that certain barristers take on cases out of their reach, the Government proposes QASA.
To prosecute (as most are instructed by the CPS) a criminal case at the Criminal Bar you now need to be graded. The same sort of scheme is to be rolled out for the defenders.
Levels will be 1 – 4. 1 Will Magistrates Court work and 4 will be serious cases in the Crown Court. We’ll decide what level we’re at first off and then Judges will decide if we’re in the right category and whether we can progress to the next level.
However, there’s an exception to the scheme: ‘the plea-only advocate’. The what now?
In short, there’ll be a category of advocates who don’t do trials, and they’ll be paid to turn up and advise a person as to how to plead. And they’ll be paid if that person pleads guilty, of course, if the person pleads not guilty then it has to go to someone qualified.
I can’t say how bizarre this is. Effectively it sanctions lawyers with no experience of serious trials advising someone on what might happen at that serious trial. Even though, they, the lawyer, have no experience.
So the suture only surgeon cuts you open, has a look and stitches you back up. If there’s anything that needs to be done in terms of the inside, the blood and guts then they’ll have to call in a real surgeon.
How is that a proper defence? This encourages the behaviour that QASA was supposed to stamp out in the first place. The whole point of QASA was stamp out those firms of solicitors (it’s not all…) who were sending people who weren’t qualified down to Court to handle cases. This sanctions that very type of behaviour.
But of course, really it only applies to poor people who need legal aid. If you can afford to pay privately then you’ll get representation from somebody with actual experience.
And of course, whilst there’s plea only advocates out there, they will be taking bread and water away from the actual advocates. Without said bread and water the real advocates starve.
I may be a brilliant brief. Joby, but I’m unable to walk on water or turn base metals into gold.
N.b I have used the term advocate throughout this post, like the Government does. I mean it to include solicitor advocates and Counsel. When I say, ‘real advocates’ this is what I mean: proper solicitor advocates who take cases within their competency and properly prepare them. Proper barristers who take cases within their competency and properly prepare them. Oh, and real advocates are people who put their clients’ best interests ahead of their pockets.