Blackstone’s National Criminal Advocacy Competition 2...

Blackstone’s National Criminal Advocacy Competition 2019

Blackstone’s National Criminal Advocacy Competition 2019Blackstone’s National Criminal Advocacy Competition 2019

NLS Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) students Annabel Lenton and Jack Moore have competed on behalf of NTU at the University of Hertfordshire and Blackstone’s National Criminal Advocacy Competition 2019. The finals weekend of the competition took place over the weekend of the 13 and 14 July in the replica Crown Court at the University of Hertfordshire, and the NTU team were crowned the winners. Here’s what Annabel had to say:

“Jack and I were selected for the Blackstone’s competition after a successful Qualifying Round in our GDL Mooting Competition. We were both thrilled and terrified at the prospect of our first ever ‘criminal trial’. Nevertheless, powered by bravado and the NTU Costa, we took part in two qualifying rounds against an extremely talented duo from the University of Hertfordshire. Both our teams scored highly in each round and we were lucky enough to be judged in the second by Samuel Coe, a highly experienced barrister from KCH Garden Square. To our surprise and delight, we made it to the finals weekend.

The finals weekend began on Friday 12 July. Jack and I travelled down in growing terror, only made better by a stop at KFC.  After we’d arrived and been allocated a room, we met the other teams and took part in a fantastic advocacy session led by Kenneth Aylett and Gavin Collett from 9 Bedford Row and Magdalen Chambers, respectively. After which we headed back to our accommodation to change all of our plans…

The following day, we faced the University of Sussex A team in the quarter-finals. With the usual structure of two pre-trial applications (a bail application by me, and a Section 78 application for Jack) and a full criminal trial; an opening speech, two cross-examinations, two examination in-chiefs and a closing speech. After grappling (not literally) with several difficult witnesses played by a group of talented actors, we left the court room feeling proud of our achievements.

Resigned to the fact we were unlikely to have made it to the semi-finals we were looking forward to some wine with the dinner hosted for the competitors that evening. Our fun was spoiled when we were told that we were one of the four teams going through. Racing back to our rooms, we prepared the required hearsay application, talked through ideas and wrote scripts until the early hours, fuelled by nothing more than coffee and each others encouragement.

Jack delivered our hearsay application in the semi-final as I tried to help by frantically whispering statute in his ear. This effort, we were later told, had got us through to the final. We would remain as defence (decided by a coin toss), there would be an audience and a photographer and we had one hour to prepare our case. I have to admit, we wasted at least ten minutes of this jumping up and down saying ‘WE’RE IN THE FINAL!’.  However, we put the rest of our time to good use and headed back into the court room ready to simply enjoy ourselves.

The final trial was judged by the inspirational HHJ Caroline Wigin, John Cooper QC and Dr Charlotte Kelly. We were provided with yet more challenges, facing formidable opposition from the University of Sussex B Team and our defendant trying to deliver an ultra realistic performance by jumping around and shouting from the dock. Nevertheless, using team work and a lot of false confidence, we were announced the winners. This was closely followed by lots of hugs and a few teary phone calls to parents.

Blackstone’s National Criminal Advocacy Competition 2019 1

In the centre: Jack Moore, Annabel Lenton (The moment we were told we had won!)

I have to say a huge thank you to my team mate. Not only is he the most patient and brilliant advocate, but he was always there to listen to me ramble on about being nervous or the many complications of self-defence law. We have been by each others’ side this year through some of our biggest and scariest challenges yet, and I could not have asked for anyone better”.

Jack also had a few words to say about the experience:

“It was slightly daunting to agree to enter a competition like this but I’m so glad we did it! I’m really proud of the work that we put in – I couldn’t have done it without Annie’s help and belief in what we could achieve. We made a great team. I’m extremely thankful that we managed to go on and win. However, the best prize ended up being the advocacy experience itself”.

We’d both like to thank everyone involved in the finals weekend of the competition, particularly UH’s Neal Geach and Monika Atkins, who went above and beyond. To Dr Elyse Wakelin who ran the competition from our end, making our jobs a lot easier. To our fellow NLS GDL competitors Harry Fraser, Meriel Scott and Iram Haneef who gave us much needed support in the first rounds. Finally, to the GDL mooting committee and especially to NLS BPTC student Ollie Saddington, who gave up his time to give Jack and I some much-welcomed advice on criminal advocacy before our second qualifier.

If you are given the chance you should definitely take part.  I can’t deny it’s scary, but it’s also been . We were extremely proud to represent the university and can’t thank them enough for the amazing opportunity.



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