King’s College London: Human Rights Moot Final 2017, sponsored by Doughty Street Chambers

 

On Thursday 23 March 2017, Peter Carter QC and Abigail Bright (renegades from UCL) judged the moot final organised by King’s College London Human Rights Project. This is the second year of the competition. It was held in one of the rooms in the Law Faculty, now in the magnificent setting of Somerset House. It was sponsored by Doughty Street Chambers. A mooting shield bears the name of last year’s winner. The university intends to add to that name with this year’s winner. The winner of this year’s final is Natalia Kubesch. Her competitors were Ysabel Bisnath, Rebecca Daniels, and James Stott. 

 

The moot problem concerned a 15 year-old pupil, TK, at a school which had adopted a policy of requiring all pupils to wear a designated school uniform. The school had pupils from mixed social and ethnic backgrounds. It had relaxed the school uniform policy in one respect, namely to enable Sikh boys to wear turbans to cover their hair.

 

The pupil who was the appellant in the moot had joined a group who shared the ideology of Richard Dawkins.  They had taken as their emblem a badge showing an ape. TK wore the badge on his blazer. The head teacher told him to remove it as it was inconsistent with the school uniform policy. When he refused, he was sent home. The moot was an appeal from the decision of a lower court rejecting his application for an order that the head teacher’s order was a violation of his rights to express his beliefs in accordance with Art. 9 of the ECHR.

 

The appellant and respondent were each represented by two student advocates. Each advocate had prepared a file containing a skeleton argument and the authorities relied upon for that advocate’s chosen topic for submission. The advocates had only a few days to prepare. The level of preparation in each case was very impressive. The skeleton arguments were all succinct, identified the points to be argued and the conclusions they invited the court to reach. Lord Justice Irwin would have approved. The authorities included in the bundles had been tabbed and the relevant passages highlighted and also tabbed. Since each advocate was limited to 15 minutes this demonstrated excellent preparation as well as foresight of how most effectively to present their submissions.

 

The oral advocacy was also excellent; each advocate referenced his or her skeleton argument and added arguments to meet those of the opposing party. Deciding the single winner was not easy. We did so based upon the advocate who best dealt with the court’s interventions and who seemed most comfortable engaging directly with the court, arguing without recourse to notes. Based upon the arguments presented, the court decided that the belief was one protected by Art.9, but that the mode of expression was not sufficiently integral to the belief to attract protection.

 

We are grateful to King’s College London Human Rights Project for organizing this event and for the hospitality they showed us. 

 

If the four advocates who participated represent only a fraction of those reading law at university, the Bar can look forward to some extremely able recruits in the future.

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