The annual HRLA Judicial Review Competition is open to law students throughout the United Kingdom. The application process involves teams of two submitting paper applications for permission to judicial review. Eight teams are then chosen to make an oral application for permission at a London Chambers before human rights practitioners. The two teams who are awarded the highest scores for their oral permission application go on to compete in the final, which involves the substantive judicial review.


Laura Jones and Kimberley Renfrew, Council for the Defendant, were deserving winners of the 6th annual HRLA Judicial Review Competition. The esteemed judging panel unanimously dismissed the application and found in their favour. This year’s final was fought in the Royal Courts of Justice with Thomas Phillips and Ryan Ross acting valiantly for Mr Cross (the Claimant). The Judicial Review was concerned with whether the Secretary of State for Justice (the Defendant) breached: (a) his public law duty to provide systems and resources needed to afford indeterminate sentence prisoners a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate that they are no longer a risk to the public; (b) The ancillary duty under Article 5 European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”); and (c) The Equality Act 2010, in terms of both direct and indirect discrimination.


The participants’ advocacy was of outstanding quality and it was to no surprise that judges Sir Robin Knowles, Maya Sikand and Martin Westgate QC took time to reach their decision. Significant weight was given to the way in which the advocates responded to questioning, which led to the judges to remind all of the importance of good answers in winning a case. The judges said one may wish to avoid questions but they should be welcomed like a friend since they are an opportunity to impress and emphasise or clarify a point. The need to adapt was also highlighted given that the Claimant’s oral opening changed the order and emphasis of the submissions from how they appeared in the written materials. The case should be addressed how it is ultimately presented. Advocates were also advised to have fingertip knowledge of the papers given that time is at a premium and knowing everything ‘like the back of your hand’ gives you confidence. Remembering your argument and making clear who you are representing are key to successful advocacy.  The Claimant’s representation may, for example, stress how Mr Cross is a real and vulnerable human being that has been adversely affected by the system’s failure. Council for the Defendant, on the other hand, would be wise to highlight that the Claimant is only one of many people.


The Judicial Review Competition is, without doubt, one of the highlights of the year. Witnessing the talent, drive and passion of future advocates is truly inspiring. Networking opportunities are plentiful too, as participants get to know one another and mingle with practitioners and members of the Human Rights Lawyers Association. This year’s finalists were invited to Middle Temple’s Annual Dinner and treated to fine food, drink and warm conversation. Cressida Dick, Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, ended the evening with an astute speech on the successes and challenges of modern policing. The Judicial Review Competition is a fantastic opportunity for any young lawyer.  I look forward to the 2019 Competition and I look forward to seeing you there.


We are all grateful to our sponsors Thomson Reuters, Liberty, Doughty Street Chambers and Church Court Chambers who added real value to this year’s Competition in many ways.


Daniel Holt, Young Lawyers’ Committee (HRLA)




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