A winning combination of Moya Vaughn-Williams and Franklin Mbiriri representing the Rhodes University Faculty of Law, under the guidance of Law of Persons Senior Lecturer, Ms Brahmi Padayachi, won the National Child Law Moot Competition in the historic Pretoria Palace of Justice in Tshwane, hosted and funded by the University of Pretoria Centre for Child Law.
In addition Vaughn-Williams was also unanimously judged as the Best Oralist in the competition. The competition took place over two days between the 19 and 20 September 2014.
The moot topic, “Child Law and the right to a fair trial - The right to privacy versus the right to freedom of expression” was broadly based on the impact of youth on the right to a fair trial, in limiting the competing rights of freedom of expression of the media and a child accused’s right to privacy.
This is a grey area in the Child Justice Act which has yet to be decided by the courts. The question was whether or not the media should be allowed to attend, reveal the identity and report on the court proceedings when a child accused who was charged when a minor turns eighteen years before his court proceedings began.
The crisp question in law was whether the child accused now loses the protection of being tried ‘in camera’ as afforded by the Act or be tried as an adult in an open court with the media present.
According to Vaughn-Williams the issues were similar to the recent Don Steenkamp murder trial, where the court did not get the opportunity to decide on this point. This topical issue is linked to the systemic challenges in the criminal justice system with long remands for juvenile offenders. The lack of precedent on the matter required extensive research and preparation.
“Being given such a cutting edge topic in our law and the lack of precedent on the issue required us to conduct extensive research and preparation on the topic. Many hours were put in and we sacrificed going home for the short vacation in order to prepare. The night before the competition we worked through the night and the growing nerves did not allow us to get more than a couple hours of sleep,” she said.
The students argued five rounds on appeal, alternatively for the applicant and respondent.
“In the first round we took on a team of quite confident girls who I believe got the upper hand on us as the nerves made us stutter and stumble as we tried to get through our heads of argument.
“Feeling disappointed we went into the second round by which we had realised could not be any worse than the first. We did much better and seemed rather level with the other team and by the third round we were definitely much better than our opponents,” she added.
The final was heard in the Pretoria Palace of Justice against the University of Johannesburg who won the competition in 2013. The final was argued before Pretoria High Court Judge Jody Kollapen, Johannesburg Advocate Steven Budlender and Kempton Park Acting Chief Magistrate Daniel Thulare.
The added honour was having the Deputy Judge President of the North Gauteng Division of the High Court, Judge Aubrey Ledwaba who addressed the court on the historical significance of the Palace of Justice as the exact court where former President Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The Rhodes Law Faculty team was coached and accompanied by Ms Padayachi who joined Rhodes University from the Wynberg Magistrates Court where she presided in the Child Justice, Maintenance and Domestic Violence Courts.
By Sarah-Jane Bradfield
Photo: Franklin Mbiriri and Moya Vaughan-Williams representing Rhodes University Law Faculty.