South Africa report – Commonwealth Mooting Champions 2013

One of the many rewards of having won the ESU/Essex Court Chambers National Mooting Competition was being selected to represent the United Kingdom at the 2013 Commonwealth Moot.

The competition, which took place in Cape Town at the same time as the Commonwealth Lawyer’s Association Conference, brought together some of the best student mooting teams in the world, all representing their regions. Each had qualified through a national or regional competition, and when we flew out, we were expecting the standard to be high.

We weren’t disappointed. In fact, we managed to lose our first two moots, against Namibia and India respectively. The mastery of international law possessed by the other teams, particularly when compared to our relative lack of knowledge as recent graduate diploma in law (GDL) students, really made it difficult to match their submissions. After the first two moots, we had resigned ourselves to spending a couple of days sightseeing, and then going home. We had been knocked out.

Except – strangely – we hadn’t been! Whilst we had indeed lost our first two moots in the General Round, the semi-finalists were to be determined via points aggregate, so as to avoid punishing a team that had come up against two excellent performances and yet only lost narrowly. As it turned out, that is exactly what had happened to us. We came fourth out of seven teams, and Matt was even named third best individual advocate. Kenya, Sri Lanka and Namibia were knocked out, but we had another moot to prepare for.

That next round was against India, to whom we had already lost. The problem stayed the same throughout each stage, however, and we were learning more about the specific issues of nuclear non-proliferation and protection against arbitrary detention with each round. After a close-fought event, we managed to knock India out, and went on to face Australia in the final who had defeated Canada.

The final was, to put it mildly, nerve-wracking. The bench to whom we were to make our submissions was chaired by the Chief Justice of Trinidad & Tobago, who had as his ‘wing members’ the Chief Justice of New Zealand and the Chief Justice of the Falkland Islands. Nevertheless, and despite very intense questioning from the panel of judges, we managed to prevail. Daniele was named best advocate in the final, and we had won the Commonwealth Mooting Competition!

We are enormously grateful to City Law School, Inner Temple and Lincoln’s Inn for contributing to our airfare to get us to South Africa. The opportunity to moot against some of the best student teams in the world was one that helped us both immeasurably – and we were proud to be able to take the Commonwealth Shield back to the UK, until the next competition in 2015.

Matthew Sellwood and Daniele Selmi are BPTC students at The City Law School, City University London and Commonwealth Mooting Champions 2013.