The High Court has refused to grant permission to appeal to the four claimant barristers who brought a judicial review of the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).
The court said: “We came to the clear view that the arguments advanced by the claimants were simply not made out and that the LSB [Legal Services Board] (along with the regulators) were entitled to conclude both that concerns about advocacy standards required regulatory action and that the scheme proposed was within its powers, not flawed by illegality or irregularity and was proportionate.
“In relation to this application, we consider that there is no reasonable prospect of successfully challenging these conclusions and no other compelling reason for granting permission: professional concern about the impact of QASA may have justified commencing these proceedings but does not, in our view, justify them being taken further.”
The Court has also ordered the claimants to pay £112,500 towards the Legal Services Board’s costs and £37,500 towards the Bar Standards Board’s costs. The Solicitors Regulation Authority and ILEX Professional Standards – which were interested parties along with the BSB – did not seek to recover their costs, it has been reported.
Dr Vanessa Davies, Director of the Bar Standards Board, said: “We hope advocates will respect the Court’s decision and understand that it is our duty to implement a quality assurance scheme. We hope we can now work together in implementing the scheme so that it best meets the needs of those we are all striving to serve – the client and the public.”
The claimants, whose legal team acted pro bono, have until 7 February to renew their application to the Court of Appeal.
The costs order comes after three judges in the High Court – the President of the Queen’s Bench Division, Mr Justice Cranston and Mr Justice Bean – ruled that the controversial scheme was lawful and did not contravene European law.
The judges did however make four suggestions on ways in which the scheme might be improved and so reduce the “entirely genuine” concerns of the claimants.
The Joint Advocacy Group – comprising the BSB, SRA and IPS – has subsequently announced that the registration deadline for QASA has been put back, although it still expects the process to be completed this year.
They have also agreed to amend the scheme to incorporate the High Court’s four suggested improvements.