Last-gasp mooting in Northern Ireland – Clare Duffy

Alex and Clare

Alex and Clare in action in Belfast

A last minute drop-out, 48 hours preparation, an unexpected flight to Belfast, a score miscount that saw the City team out and back into the competition, a close-fought semi-final – the first ‘JustCite Annual UK and Ireland National Mooting Competition’ was certainly a memorable competition for the City University pair!

During a break in our last equity and trusts lecture I received an email from Emily Allbon, City’s mooting director, simply stating “????!!!! Is this too late?”

A team had dropped out of the ‘JustCite Annual UK and Ireland National Mooting Competition’ organised by Queen’s University Belfast and so began a whirlwind of last minute preparation to take up our reserve place and catch up with the other teams who had been preparing for three weeks.

My moot partner, Alex Bennie, and I received the moot problem with 48 hours to go before the full-day mooting competition on Saturday 28th March. The fascinating problem closely mirrored the Strasbourg Court’s January 2014 judgment in Jones v UK [2014] ECHR 32 . An innocent citizen D’Alio of the fictional European nation of Orestia visited the non-European Ruritania when he was arrested by the police on suspicion of subversion. Two weeks of torture ensued, before the citizen was allowed to return home. Two years later the Ruritanian foreign minister who had supervised the torture visited Orestia for medical treatment, and D’Alio immediately instigated civil proceedings in the Orestian courts.

Moot teams prepared both sides of the problem, ready to oscillate between advocating for a progressive attitude to Article 6 rights in the context of jus cogens/Article 3 violations, and defending the respondent government’s adherence to absolute state immunity rules. In order to argue the problem effectively, mooting pairs had to draw upon domestic, European, and international jurisprudence, which took us well off the familiar territory of our GDL syllabus!

Belfast Semi 4

The competition was judged by Irish barristers, including multiple silks and senior Bar Council Panel members. Due to last minute team cancellations the first round was designated a practice round, during which we were put through our paces by an excellent BPP team. Then it was on to the competition proper mooting against Liverpool John Moores University.

A score miscount led us to believe we had been knocked out of the competition in the first round and over lunch we hatched plans for a relaxing afternoon in the botanical garden across the road. However, thankfully, the mathematical error was noticed and we were back in the competition with only 10mins before our next moot. The second round was against a pair from Nottingham Trent University and a very interventionist judge making oral submissions both challenging and stimulating. Nottingham Trent put in a strong performance, however we had accurately anticipated their arguments, and surprised them in our rebuttal by referring the judge to a case in their bundle that was not included in our own written submissions.

The semi-final was against Queen’s University, and before a panel of three judges. It was a closely fought moot, and when returning to the chamber for judgement we couldn’t predict who was going to succeed.  However, unfortunately for us, the home team won a place in the final defeating us by the galling razor-thin margin of one point (out of one hundred).

Queen’s University gave an excellent performance in the final; honing the arguments they pitted against us in the semi-finals, but were pipped to victory by a second BPP team who persuaded the panel to prioritise the protection of individual human rights above state immunity rules.

After a long day’s mooting Alex and I experienced the famous Northern Irish hospitality with a three-course dinner, and evening listening to live music in the beautiful cathedral quarter of Belfast.

All in all, it was an excellently organised competition that will no doubt thrive as an annual fixture on the mooting calendar! Of course, while it is always disappointing not to make the finals of a competition, Alex and I are pleased to get City to the semi-finals given how little time we had to prepare. Thank you very much to City University and, in particular, Emily Allbon for all the hard work at the eleventh hour to get us to Belfast!

Thanks to Clare for sharing their experiences of this moot. We are very proud of the amazing efforts of both her and Alex in almost being in the final after just 48hrs of preparation – incredible performances for 2 students who have only been studying law since September!

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