Future Lawyer Blog

Report No. 2 from Cape Town: Commonwealth Student Moot – Matthew Sellwood


So, here we are in Cape Town. Firstly, thanks should go to Inner Temple and City Law School for paying for our flights, and to the Commonwealth Legal Education Association for putting us up in a lovely hotel (not to mention organising the moot). Having a day off on Saturday to climb up Table Mountain in bright sunshine also didn’t hurt our mood! Now, however, the business end of the mooting competition has started…

All of the teams met up in a room at The Cullinan Hotel in Cape Town Sunday afternoon, in order to be introduced to each other and to witness the drawing of lots for the first round. This will consist of two moots, to be held on Monday and Tuesday, after which the top four teams will go through to the semi-finals on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the Nigerian team have had to pull out due to visa issues, but that still leaves us with six opponents. Australia, Canada, India, Kenya, Namibia and Sri Lanka are all bound to present firm opposition!

After the introductions, we found out that our first moot is to be against Namibia. We shall be acting as the Applicants to their Respondents, in the same problem that will be used all week – the United Republic of Utopia and the Socialist Republic of Alpines. Essentially, it is a set of facts which focuses around the legal and illegal use of nuclear power programmes, as well as the extent to which states can arrest the nationals of other states on grounds of espionage.

Our second moot will reverse our role, so we will be acting as Respondents against India. A small country. Barely anyone lives there. How good could they possibly be? Rather good, it would seem, given the content of their outline argument, which we also exchanged at the meeting this afternoon.

In fact, the exchange of outline arguments has illustrated an interesting cultural difference between the various teams. Our approach has been to make our points quite concisely, with only the reference to treaties and ICJ case law which seemed appropriate to support the skeleton argument. However, both of our opponents have submitted quite dense written submissions, containing significantly more detailed legal argument.

Our strategy has always been to signpost the arguments that we will be making for the judge in our outline, but to put the ‘flesh on the bones’ with our oral advocacy. Our opponents, in contrast, have already written down most of what they will be saying ahead of time. We shall see which approach wins the day on Monday! Another update will follow afterwards….

Matthew Sellwood and Daniele Selmi (students at The City Law School) are representing the UK at the Commonwealth Student Moot in Cape Town, after winning the ESU National Moot last year.

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