Disability, advocacy and the law

11th November 2015

News, Student news, Alumni news

Students, Oxford law faculty members and senior members of the judiciary gathered for the final of the 2015 Herbert Smith Freehills Oxford Disability Mooting Championship at Wadham College on Saturday.

Organised by graduate students from Wadham College, led by Wadham’s Marie Tidball (DPhil Criminology), the mock court case discussed employment law and civil justice issues relating to the award of damages in discrimination cases when an employee has already left their job.

Twelve teams took part in the preliminary rounds of the competition with Isabella Buono (St John’s College) and Elizabeth McMullan (New College) representing the Appellant and (Hannah Smith and Gita Keshava (Wadham College) the respondent in the final. The winners of the Herbert Smith Freehills Oxford Disability Mooting Championship 2015 were Isabella and Elizabeth and they were presented with their certificates by Wadham alumnus Sir James Mumby.

Judging the Grand Final were Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales; Professor Anne Davies, Dean of the Faculty of Law; Professor Anna Lawson, Professor of Law and Director of the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Leeds; and Mr Ian Gatt QC, Head of the Advocacy Group at Herbert Smith Freehills.

Panel discussion - conversazione

The Grand Final was followed by a 'Conversazione' discussion moderated by Ken Macdonald QC, Warden of Wadham College and former Director of Public Prosecutions, on the theme: 'Nothing About Us, Everything Without Us? The representation of disabled people in the UK Media'.

Panellists were the Editor of Power 100 list of Britain's most influential people with a disability or impairment, Dom Hyams; CEO of Disability Rights UK, Liz Sayce OBE; three times Paralympic gold medallist Giles Long MBE, Chair of Equality 2025, Dr Rachel Perkins OBE; and OUSU Disabled Students Officer and Wadham student Lindsay Lee (MSt Public Policy Statistics).

During the discussion Lindsay Lee commented on the difficulties of ‘limited visibility’ faced by those with disabilities who are forced to navigate a world where they are not seen. Paralympic swimmer Giles Long stressed the importance of seeing people with disability as individuals. He talked about coming to terms with his own disability and its impact on his career in Olympic swimming, saying that some of the best advice he got was that he could either concentrate on the 1000 things he could not do any more or the 9000 things that he could do.

Talking about mental health issues, Dr Rachel Perkins said that we should: “Stop focussing on changing people so that they fit in, but focus on changing the world so that we have parity of rights.” After making his Channel 4 documentary ‘Crip on a Trip’ Dominic Hyams became aware of the things one can do as an individual, using the media to give insight and understanding to the issues faced by those with disabilities face. Liz Sayce stressed the importance of those with and without disabilities learning to work together on equal terms from a young age and replacing the narrative of vulnerability with one of participation.

Presentation to school students

The event kicked off with a talk from Herbert Smith Freehills for visiting school students who are interested in going on to study Law at University. Led by Sir Ian Gatt QC, Herbert Smith Freehills staff talked about the various pathways to careers in the Law. Members of the Herbert Smith Freehills legal team, including former Wadham student Sarah Smith and the Partner Sponsor of the Herbert Smith Freehills Ability Network, Daniel Hudson, gave candid and inspirational answers to questions about what made them choose Law, and their personal careers in Law. 

Preliminary rounds and semi finals

  • mooting competition
  • mooting competition
  • mooting competition
  • mooting competition
  • mooting competition