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Cardiff pioneers assessment of Criminal Advocates

16 February 2010

Researchers from Cardiff Law School, Cardiff University have been the first to assess in a verifiable way the quality of criminal advocates. The study adds evidence to a growing body of opinion that there needs to be a stronger and more cohesive system for ensuring the quality of advocates.

The Cardiff researchers’ trialled eight different forms of assessment on more than 100 volunteer candidates. Assessment methods included testing barristers, solicitors and other lawyers on a range of their work as advocates: including simulated cross-examination and evaluation of their performance in court by judges.

The study is published this week by the Legal Services Commission. Angela Devereux, who led the assessments, said:

"There is a growing body of evidence that there are problems with the quality of some criminal advocates. The judiciary have expressed concerns; practitioners have expressed concerns and our assessments, albeit on a modest sample of volunteers, suggest the need for producing a scheme to ensure consistency in the quality of criminal advocates."

Professor Richard Moorhead of Cardiff Law School added:

"All stakeholders have been working together for some time to improve the system of quality accreditation for defence advocates. The professions and the regulators need to move swiftly to address the need for stronger quality assurance in advocacy. We are pleased to have contributed to that process and look forward to the professions’ regulators developing robust quality systems in this crucial area of work. "


Notes to editors:

For further information please contact:

Richard Moorhead, Professor of Law, Cardiff University 07963 612 005

Angela Devereux, Director Professional Development Unit, 07900 493923

Stephen Rouse, Cardiff University Press Office, 02920 875596

• The research stems from Lord Carter’s recommendation in Legal Aid: A market-based approach to reform, that a system of quality monitoring should be developed for all advocates carrying out legal aid work in criminal, civil and family courts. The Legal Services Commission (who fund most criminal defence work) commissioned Cardiff Law School to conduct an evaluation of different mechanisms for assessing criminal defence work.

• Full proposals for developing quality assurance are now being developed by the Joint Advocacy Group (JAG). JAG consists of the three main advocacy regulators (Solicitors Regulation Authority for solicitors, Bar Standards Board for barristers and ILEX Professional Standards for Legal Executives) with contributions from other stakeholders including: the LSC, MoJ, judiciary and Crown Prosecution Service.

• The research is authored by Angela Devereux, Richard Moorhead and Jason Tucker of Cardiff University and Ed Cape of UWE, Bristol. It is available at: A summary is found at p. 82 onwards

Cardiff University

Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans.

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