Future Lawyer Blog

Report No.3 from Cape Town: Commonwealth Student Moot – Matthew Sellwood

Today was hectic, to say the least. Up late last night finalising our submissions for today’s moot, we got up early to go along to the Law Society’s Young Lawyers Breakfast. Immediately afterwards, we attended the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Law Conference, complete with choirs and a keynote speech from South Africa’s Chief Justice.

Then it was on to what was, for us, the main event of the day. Our first moot of the competition, against Namibia, who qualified as champions of Southern Africa. We knew that they must be excellent, as they had knocked out South Africa in the qualification process, and had exchanged a highly detailed and legally complex outline argument with us yesterday. They didn’t disappoint.

In front of a panel of three judges, we presented first as the Applicants. Essentially, the Applicant in the moot problem we are using is a large, nuclear weapon using state, often regarded as the world’s last remaining superpower (sound familiar?). The Respondent is a non nuclear weapon using state, whom the Applicant suspects of developing nuclear weapons covertly.

We made a series of applications, splitting our time between Lead Counsel (10 minutes) and Junior Counsel (15 minutes), whilst reserving a right of reply of 5 minutes at the end. These applications covered a whole range of issues, including the lack of safeguards for the Respondent’s nuclear programme, the potentially arbitrary detention of the Applicant’s citizens by the Respondents, and many more.

We were very pleased with our performance as advocates, but must admit that we found it difficult to match the complexity of the legal submissions made by the Namibian team. Having already knocked out other countries in an international human rights moot, they had crucial experience of this kind of competition, and in the end it proved decisive. Unfortunately, Daniele and I have officially recorded our first ever mooting loss.

However, now the task is to dust ourselves off quickly, because we have a moot with the same problem tomorrow against India. This time, we will be acting as the Respondents, and if we win it is still possible for us to progress to the semi-finals. It’ll be a tough ask, but we’ll do our best. Cross your fingers…and I’ll let you know how it goes as soon as I can….

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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