HRLA Judicial Review Competition 2015

Human Rights Lawyers Association 3rd Annual Judicial Review Competition Final

Thursday 25 June 2015 at Middle Temple, London

Competition Brief

On Thursday 25 June 2015 the third annual HRLA Judicial Review Competition final took place in Middle Temple Hall. This was the culmination of a competition that began in April 2015 and had seen teams from across the UK fighting for the chance to argue their case before a distinguished bench.

The Rt. Hon. Lady Justice Arden, of the Court of Appeal acted as chair for the final. With her sat Sir Louis Blom-Cooper QC, a barrister specialising in public and administrative law, along with Professor Maurice Sunkin of the University of Essex, who is also editor of Public Law.

The competition followed the format of a judicial review application from permission stage whereby teams were first required to apply for permission. The provision around which the problem was based was a fictitious amendment to the Education (No2) Act 1986. The amendment was that;

  • where a university has reasonable grounds to believe that allowing a speaker or student to put across a particular point of view will lead to other students being drawn into terrorist activity, the university could exclude that speaker or student; and that
  • Any member of staff at a university who has reasonable grounds to believe that a student holds beliefs that, if expressed, will lead other students to be drawn into terrorist activity, has a duty to report this to the Vice-Chancellor of the university.

The application was to be brought on behalf of the University and College Union on the basis that the amendment would be contrary to Articles 8, 9, 10, 14 and Article 2 of the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. The defendant was the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Over twenty teams, each comprising two law students, submitted written applications for permission. The best eight teams were selected to renew their application at an oral hearing at Doughty Street Chambers in early May. From the oral hearing two teams were recognized by the judges from the HRLA Executive Committee for their outstanding submissions and chosen to progress to the substantive hearing stage.

In the final held before a crowd of student members of the Inn, Mathias Cheung and Zara McGlone of City Law School acting for the Claimant, submitted that the alleged breaches of the ECHR represented a disproportionate response from the Secretary of State in combating terrorism and radicalization. The Claimants argued that the proposed amendment was indirectly discriminatory towards minority groups and should be quashed.

Scarlet Milligan and Ami Jones, of Inner Temple, robustly defended the amendment. They relied upon the requirement that a University or member of staff must have ‘reasonable grounds’ before any action could be justified. Drawing on a range of domestic, European and international authorities, they argued that the nature of the threat was addressed proportionally by the Secretary of State and allowed sufficient safeguards for both staff and students to express themselves within universities.

Finding in favour of the Defendant, Arden LJ agreed that the proposed amendments were both proportionate and necessary and therefore the application to quash the amendment was unsuccessful. She expressed support for the legal definition of ‘terrorism’ as laid down by Parliament and considered this to be a suitable ‘working definition’. She did not agree with the Claimant’s attempts to discredit it by branding it so broad as to become nebulous.

In handing down her judgement, Arden LJ applauded all of the finalists for their able submissions. She suggested that all aspiring barristers should seek to be as concise as possible, and that a good bench mark for this is whether one’s entire argument could be distilled into no more than five sentences.

Both teams’ efforts demonstrate that they have the ability to succeed at the bar. This observation was echoed by Michael Polak, Chair of the HRLA Young Lawyers Committee, who stated that ‘the ability of the teams to condense sophisticated arguments into clear and engaging submissions was very impressive’.

Thanks go to our sponsors who generously donated prizes for this year’s final: Justice, Rights Watch (UK) and Penfriend. We also express thanks to Middle Temple for facilitating yet another excellent final. If you are a student and interested in taking part in next year’s competition or in any of the Young Lawyer’s Committee’s other activities details can be found at http://www.hrla.org.uk

Matthew Allan is Communications Officer of the HRLA Young Lawyers Committee. He also sits on the Law Society Council as the LPC student/Trainee Member. He is studying the LPC part-time at BBP University and works as a paralegal at Stewarts Law LLP.

Chucks Golding is a member of the HRLA YLC and a postgraduate student at the University of London, Institute of Commonwealth Studies studying the MA Understanding and Securing Human Rights. She is also a Company Secretary at a multi-academy trust and ensures that the MAT is compliant in regards to their company and charity obligations.