An audience of two-hundred people filled the historic Holywell Music Room on Saturday 7th November to watch the Grand Final of the Herbert Smith Freehills Oxford Disability Mooting Championship 2015. This year’s mock court case discussed employment law and civil justice issues relating to the award of damages in post-termination discrimination and victimisation cases.

A line up of prestigious lawyers and academics made up the bench presiding over the final round of this two-day competition: 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 (pictured).

Heralding the start of UK Disability History Month, the moot marked the twentieth anniversary of the first Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 and the fifth birthday of the Equality Act 2010; into which the first DDA’s of 1995 and 2005 have been subsumed.  Both grounds of appeal in the moot problem brought the Equality Act to the fore. The first ground concerned whether or not the claimant (Ms Atkins) could claim damages from her employer, Mr Draper, for post-termination victimisation.  The second ground addressed whether or not Ms Atkins was entitled to both damages for discrimination and victimisation with reference to the proper interpretation of Section 108(7) of the Equality Act 2010.

In this scintillating Final, Isabella Buono (St John’s College) and Elizabeth McMullan (New College) represented the Appellant, and Hannah Smith and Gita Keshava (Wadham College) spoke for the respondent. Both teams presented engaged and stimulating arguments. In the end Isabella and Elizabeth excelled in their advocacy skills and legal arguments. These Championship winners were presented with their certificates by Wadham alumnus Sir James Munby.

Isabella Buono said: "I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in the Herbert Smith Freehills Oxford Disability Mooting Championship. It gave me a valuable opportunity to learn more about disability law, and to develop my advocacy skills. A real highlight of the weekend was the panel discussion, which placed the issues of equality and discrimination raised by the moot problem in a pressing real-world context." 

The panel discussion, which followed the Grand Final, was moderated by Lord 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-time Paralympic gold medallist Giles Long MBE, Chair of Equality 2025, Dr Rachel Perkins OBE; and OUSU Disabled Students Officer and Wadham student Lindsay Lee (Master of Public Policy). 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 and the responsibility we all have to improve the representation of people with disabilities in the media and public life.

(All photo credits Alice Wang)