The Supreme Court sat in Belfast for the first time in May 2018, It is only the second time since it was established in 2009 that it has sat away from London. As part of a four-day programme, Lady Hale, President of The Supreme Court will be joined by, Lord Mance, Deputy President of The Supreme Court, Lord Kerr (former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland), Lord Hodge and Lady Black.
At the opening of the court on Monday 30th April 2018 Lady Hale commented.
“I would just like to acknowledge the historic occasion of the Supreme Court sitting in Northern Ireland by saying how delighted I and my fellow justices are to be here"
The court handed down one judgment and heard two cases. One involving a woman’s fight for widowed parents allowance and an appeal by Asher’s Bakery against a ruling of discrimination regarding their refusal to put “Support Gay Marriage” on a cake. Another part of the four-day programme of events was the Belfast Moot Final which saw students from Queen's University and Ulster University take part in the final which was judged by the five Supreme Court Justices.
Research Advocate Meghan Hoyt caught up with the two mooters from Queen’s just prior to the competition;
“It is immediately obvious that Conor Lockhart and Sarah Gallen are passionate about mooting. Both are palpably excited at being selected as the mooting team to represent Queens on Thursday May 3rd in front of all five Supreme Court Justices. Unbelievably, neither of them seem overly anxious despite the prestigious nature of the event. Nor are they overwhelmed by the added work load of preparing for the moot while also sitting exams and writing papers. They are just excited to get mooting!
It’s all very impressive. As I listen to them talk about skeleton arguments, presentation styles, national championships and the thrill of competition, I begin to realise that not only does mooting help you develop public speaking and research skills, but it also sounds like a lot of fun.
Given their dedication, I had assumed that Conor and Sarah had been involved in this kind of activity before. School Debating Team, Mock United Nation, that type of thing. So I was surprised to find that both had taken up mooting on a bit of a whim. Sarah, in her first year of an LLB at Queens, heard about mooting when she attended the QUB Law School Open Day and decided to have a go. With a love of acting, she was drawn to the performative element in a moot. Conor, now in the second year of his MLaw, was looking for an extra-curricular activity and realized mooting’s potential as training for becoming a barrister. They both speak very enthusiastically about the broader mooting ‘family’ at Queens and would credit mooting with dramatically enhancing their student experience.”
The Moot itself was valiantly fought by both teams with the University of Ulster team winning the points of law but the Queens Law School team winning overall.
Asked to share her feelings on her experience Sarah Gallen said;
“As a first year law student it was a huge honour to be chosen to moot in front of the Supreme Court. The experience was challenging and required a few very late nights but every second was worth it, once I was standing in front of five of the top judges in the land. The judicial intervention was especially daunting but it was an incredible feeling to be answering the questions of the President of the Supreme Court. To moot in front of the highest court in the land was so brilliant I can barely put it into words. It is an experience I will never forget.”
Conor Lockhard commented;
"This was the first occasion five Justices of the Supreme Court had heard a moot together. To be a part of such an event was a true privilege and the moot itself was particularly enjoyable thanks to the high standard of advocacy displayed by Ulster University. The interventions from the Justice's were some of the most difficult I have heard or had to respond to during my time mooting for Queen's and it was both an informative and exhilarating experience to have our arguments scrutinised by some of the sharpest legal minds in the UK. We were ultimately victorious in the moot which was certainly a bonus, but the opportunity to moot in such a setting was in itself what provided an unforgettable experience and a highlight of our mooting experience at Queen's."
To find out more about how to get involved in mooting at Queen’s visit https://blogs.qub.ac.uk/lawsociety/mooting/
The QUB Law School team consisted of:
Conor Lockhart & Sarah Gallen: Mooters
David Capper & Matthew Yardley: QUB Organisers
Darren Finnegan, Kiera Oluwunmi and Keane Davison: 'Solicitors' who helped with research