That Was The WeekOn Monday the provisions of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 came into force. Aside from the cuts across the board to legal aid payments, the Act abolished the Legal Services Commission, a non-departmental public body, replacing it with the Legal Aid Agency, an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice. The Bar Council’s response to concerns about people having to resort to “taking the law into their own hands” due to a lack of representation was to produce a guide to representing yourself in court. The guide sets out to “demystify” the legal system by offering a step-by-step walkthrough of pursuing a claim. The Independent’s coverage of the guidance focused on the section dealing with courtroom etiquette. The article, You are not Rumpole of the Bailey”, instructs litigants-in-person to avoid attempting to impersonate lawyers from television programmes.

The northern circuit was the first to declare its vote on the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates, and of the 460 criminal barristers who voted 458 refused to sign up to QASA, and two spoilt their ballot papers. Other circuits are predicted to be of a similar mind.

Leader of the northern circuit Rick Pratt QC said of the controversial scheme:

‘We are not opposed to the principle of quality assurance. We welcome regulation which makes quality of advocacy the determining factor as to who should appear in court and at what level of case.

‘But the current scheme does not achieve that aim. It rewards competence, not excellence. It will mean that the lowest common denominator becomes the norm rather than the very high standards which we have always valued.’

A former practitioner set up a “matchmaking” website for prospective clients to find suitable public access barristers. Similar to a dating site, it is intended that barristers would pay an annual fee for the site to host their profile, and it will go live next week with a starting list of 70 barristers.

A motorist was banned from driving for 12 months and ordered to pass an extended test after driving “under the influence of drum and bass”. Police had followed the van driver across Bristol as he cut through red lights and rounded a corner so sharply the vehicle rocked on its chassis, and pulled him over, expecting him to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. However, his defence counsel argued he had been “carried away because of the intoxicating effects of drum and bass music”. Recorder Kevin De Haan QC, sentencing the defendant for dangerous driving, described drum and bass as “intoxicating for some. Very irritating for others.”