The Bar regulator has today announced proposals to improve advocacy standards in youth court proceedings following research commissioned by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) and CILEx Regulation last year.
The research found that the quality of advocacy in the Youth Courts can be poor with very serious consequences for young people. So the BSB’s aim is to help establish advocacy involving youths and within the Youth Court as an area of specialism so that young people always receive representation of an appropriate standard by competent advocates.
The actions include:
- Clearly setting out the competences that advocates appearing in the Youth Court or proceedings involving youths will be expected to demonstrate.
- Providing guidance and advice as to how those competences can be satisfied.
- Encouraging examples of good practice in youth advocacy to be brought to our attention so that they can be shared across the professions.
- Looking at ways in which poor performance can be identified. Options range from risk-based or sampled visits to youth courts to observe advocacy, to encouraging anyone who comes into contact with an advocate during the youth justice process to bring any concerns to the BSB’s attention. Poor performance would be addressed by supporting the advocate to improve. Enforcement action would be reserved for the most serious or persistent cases.
- Raising the status of youth advocacy work. The research indicated that Youth Court advocacy can be seen as a place for advocates to ‘cut their teeth’ before appearing in the adult courts. The BSB proposes to work with others with the youth justice sector to raise the status of Youth Court work so that is seen not as a training ground but as an area of specialism. In part this requires the financial value placed on Youth Court advocacy to be addressed but we are looking at other means of raising its status.
BSB Director of Supervision and Authorisation, Oliver Hanmer said: “The BSB is committed to ensuring that young people always have access to competent advocates. The Youth Court deals with some of the most vulnerable people within the criminal justice system and the impact of poor quality advocacy is therefore grave. Since the publication of the research we have built strong support from across the youth justice sector to addressing advocacy standards and believe that the measures that we have outlined today will put us on the path to doing so. We will continue to work with the other advocacy regulators to develop these proposals so that there is a consistent approach to maintaining standards across all elements of the legal profession. The quality of the advocacy these young, vulnerable clients receive can make a difference to the rest of their lives. We are committed to improving standards and making that positive difference.”