On Monday 6th March 2017, the Grand Final of the ICLR and UK Supreme Court Yearbook sponsored OU Mooting Competition, organised by Mark Baldwin, took place within the grandeur of the UK Supreme Court.
On Wednesday 8th March 2017 billions of women celebrated International Women’s Day, calling for a more inclusive, ‘gender equal world’. With four female finalists, a female competition clerk, the female Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court Lady Hale, judging a moot problem created by ICLR law reporter and OU law tutor Jessica Giles; the Grand Final of the ICLR OU Mooting Competition 2017 demonstrated that the once male dominated legal industry has progressed in leaps and bounds toward a ‘gender equal profession’.
The four finalists, Ann-Marie O’Neil (Junior Counsel for the Respondent), Ilana Hirschberg (Lead Counsel for the Respondent), Farhana Begum (Junior Counsel for the Appellant) and Abigail Scott (Lead Counsel for the Appellant) spent a lot of time preparing for the Grand Final, but none of them, not even Ex-Chair of the OULS and winner of the recent Times 2TG Mooting Competition Abigail Scott would get away with presenting a pre-planned argument to Lady Hale without a severe grilling!
The moot problem concerned a same sex couple who encountered contractual issues and alleged discrimination by their wedding organisers after it came to light that their menu would only consist of Halal meat, despite the couple’s conscientious objections, and the wedding photographer would only photograph weddings of heterosexual couples who have not been guilty of adultery. Unfortunately for the four finalists, Lady Hale was all too familiar with the key authorities such as Preddy v Bull  UKSC 73;  1 WLR 3741, in which Lady Hale was one of the sitting Justices. She made it very clear that if counsel were to rely on a principle, they had better know the facts of the case as well. Inevitably, Lady Hale was a force to be reckoned with, however counsel showed their mettle, arguing their submissions well despite being ‘lead down a very windy garden path’, facing deceivingly simple questions.
The pressure of trying to argue a point against the second most senior Judge in the UK’s highest court was intense, which resulted in a number of quick witted jabs. At one point, after Ann-Marie O’Neil asked if she should proceed with one of the grounds, Lady Hale responded “you should have a go at both grounds … until I have a go at you”, resulting in laughs from the spectators.
After all submissions had been dissected by Lady Hale, she retired for a short time with the moot organiser Mark Baldwin, before returning to deliver her verdict. Lady Hale provided comforting advice and praised the participants, commenting that they were “all terrific and stood up to her in just the right way”. However, there could only be two winners. Lady Hale awarded the best ‘Junior Counsel’ to Ann-Marie O’Neil for the Respondent and best ‘Lead Counsel’ to Abigail Scott for the Appellant. Each won a copy of ICLR’s The Law Reports 1865-2015 Anniversary Edition and Volume 7 of the UK Supreme Court Yearbook. All four were provided with certificates signed by Lady Hale herself.
In true OULS fashion, most of the 50+ participants, spectators and organisers trotted down to a local pub for some well-deserved refreshments and to celebrate the conclusion of a highly successful event!
The Incorporated Council of Law Reporting for England and Wales (ICLR) was founded in 1865 and has been making case history ever since. Thanks must go to everyone at the ICLR for their generous financial support and donation of prizes, and especially to Holly Powell and Paul Magrath without whom the event would not have been such a success.
Furthermore, thanks go to Rebecca Lowson at the UK Supreme Court for providing an amazing tour of the courts and for helping to organise the Grand Final, as well as Dr Daniel Clarry at the UK Supreme Court Yearbook for providing such wonderful prizes.
It goes without saying that huge thanks must go to The Right Hon Baroness Hale of Richmond for taking the time out of her extremely busy schedule, to judge the ICLR Open University Law Society Mooting Competition 2017 Grand Final!
The competition would not have been possible without the commitment and effort of the following people:
- Mark Baldwin, Peter Savory, Gwyn Hopkins and the OULS committee
- Jessica Giles at OU Law School, who provided the two original moot problems
- Our volunteers in the competition heats: Sophie Khan, Amy Woolfson, Joseph Thomas (judges); Arabella Atkinson, Sophia Ahmed, Dawn Curtis (clerks)
- Lizanne Gumbel QC at 1 Crown Office Row, who provided additional coaching for the competition finalists
- ICLR’s Paul Magrath published his fantastic report of the moot here.
- Spectator Isobel Williams released beautiful illustrations from the Grand Final here.
- Moot problem creator Jessica Giles wrote a lovely piece here.