Skip to main content

Advocates to be assessed by judges

The Solicitors Regulation Authority have today approved a scheme whereby advocates will be assessed by the judges before whom they appear.

This is an interesting decision for a number of reasons.

First, the scheme has attracted widespread criticism from judges who a) don't want the extra work; b) object to being asked to undertake a lot more work for no extra pay; and c) do not necessarily have any advocacy experience themselves, or their experience is from decades past (okay they don't admit to the last one but it's a very real point).

It is also interesting for the SRA to approve this scheme since it appears to undermine part of their function, which is to regulate solicitors rather than allowing judges (most of whom are not solicitors) to conduct a significant portion of that regulation.

I also find it a difficult decision to stomach as a number of judges are hostile to solicitors conducting Crown Court advocacy.  This is an attitude common at the Bar, just the other week I was in the robing room at Snaresbrook Crown Court when I overheard a QC telling his junior how pleased he was to have a barrister as a junior - he commented that his last junior had been a solicitor and said that he was a very competent advocate but that he just doesn't like solicitors doing advocacy.  An opinion he had neglected to mention when accepting the Brief!  In late 2009, HHJ Gledhill QC took umbrage at a number of solicitor-advocates who appeared before him.  He criticised them heavily saying they were not up to the job of representing their clients (although he decided that they weren't so incompetent that he could use his powers to stop the trial and he glossed over the fact that one of the inadequately represented defendants was actually acquitted!).  In early 2010, HHJ Gledhill QC was forced to "express his regret" for his completely outrageous behaviour toward the solicitors.  Personally, I thought that Gledhill's behaviour showed a distinct lack of sound judgment, a character that is looked for in Judges.

I have had quiet conversations with judges over a few drinks where they have been honest enough to express their dislike of solicitor-advocates, although always saying that they would always treat a solicitor fairly and wouldn't admit their real position openly.

Given the open (and often hidden) hostility from some members of the judiciary I really am surprised that the SRA have agreed to this plan.


  1. That's a nasty case of Greengrocer's Apostrophe you've got there.


  2. So it is. The risks of blogging in haste are great.

  3. Defence Brief's mate22 November 2011 at 18:15

    If the best that 'anonymous' learned counsel could come up with to rebut the content of the interesting blog above was a reference to grammar then lord help us 'little people' when you become a Judge!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Ched Evans

Before I begin, I will say that at around 4,500 words this is probably the longest blog I’ve ever posted but I think it’s all necessary to set the scene for this case and explain the background that has been largely ignored or airbrushed in the press. Despite its length, I have not attempted to include every little detail of either fact or law but have done my best to provide a balanced picture of the Ched Evans case, what happened and why the courts reached the decisions they did. There has been so much written about the Ched Evans case over the past weekend, much of it based on a very shaky grasp of the facts and law, that I decided I would read up about the case and weigh in (hopefully on a slightly firmer footing than most of the articles I’ve read so far).

Broadly speaking there seem to be three groups who have opinions on the case:
1.Sexual violence groups (including people describing themselves as “radical feminists”) who appear to take the view that the case is awful, the Court o…

How do the police decide whether to charge a suspect?

A question I’m often asked by clients (and in a roundabout way by people arriving at this blog using searches that ask the question in a variety of ways), is “how do the police decide whether to charge or take no further action (NFA)?”
What are the options?
Let’s have a quick think about what options are available to the police at the end of an investigation.
First, they can charge or report you for summons to attend court.  Charging means that you are given police bail and are required to attend court in person.  A summons is an order from the court for you to attend or for you to send a solicitor on your behalf.  In many cases where a person is summonsed, the court will allow you the option of entering a plea by post.
Second, you may be given a caution.  These can be a simple caution, which on the face of it is a warning not to be naughty in future, or it can be a conditional caution.  Conditions could include a requirement to pay for the cost of damage or compensation, etc.  Either…

Bid to prevent defendants knowing who accuses them of a crime

When I read The Trial by Kafka and Nineteen Eighty-Four by Orwell, I took them as warnings of how a bad justice system wrecks lives of those caught up in it. Sadly, some Members of Parliament and the House of Lords seem to view the books more as a guide to how they would like our Criminal Justice System to run. Today, I read of plans to hide the names of accusers and witnesses from defendants in a large number of cases. Victims of sexual offences, such as rape, have had the right to lifelong anonymity for many years now. This means that it is a criminal offence to publish information that will lead to a complainant being identified. A Bill currently being considered by Parliament would extend that anonymity to bar defendants and their lawyers knowing the name of the person accusing them. This would apply not only in sexual offences, as has been reported in the press, but also in violent offences.
The anonymity currently offered to victims of sexual offences is not total, the complainant…