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04 Mar 2016

Students of the Hugh Wooding Law School recently argued an unusual case before the ‘Court of Appeal’ at the Hamel-Smith Appellate Mooting Competition on 24th February, 2016.

Appearing for the Appellant were Angel Kungiesingh, John Lee and Ariel Agostini, while Shari Deonarinesingh, Miguel Vasquez and Vineta Marajh appeared for the Respondent.  The moot was keenly contested: both sides were well prepared and argued their case powerfully.

The Moot Court of Appeal comprised The Hon Mme Justice of Appeal Joan Charles, The Hon Mme Justice Mira Dean-Armorer; and The Hon Mr. Justice Peter Rajkumar, all of the Supreme Court of Trinidad and Tobago.

The Court of Appeal was called upon to interpret the Integrity in Public Life Act (“IPLA”) in an appeal filed by a now privatised utility company against the Integrity Commission. Specifically, the Court was required to ascertain the meaning of the words "Members of the Boards of all State Enterprises including those bodies in which the State has a controlling interest."

Using section 119 of the Constitution, the first instance judge decided, inter alia, that businesses or companies directly or indirectly controlled by the State were State Enterprises. The judge concluded that the State exercised indirect control over the utility company through its 100% ownership in a Government holding/investment company which in turn owned 100% of the shares in the utility company; thus the utility company was a States Enterprise.

On appeal, the utility company argued that the direct or indirect test was too wide and inappropriate to be applied to the IPLA. Further, that the judge was wrong to disregard the separate legal personality that exists between a shareholder and a company. In response, the Integrity Commission contended that the Court must examine the facts of the matter as they truly exist. The Integrity Commission urged the Court to give effect to Parliament's intention and the underlying rationale of the Act which was to expand the scope of persons deemed to be in public life, and to root out corruption, respectively.

The judges commented that the moot question, although appearing simple, was difficult and carefully drafted. They were impressed with the presentation, delivery and persuasion of the lawyers-in-waiting. The students' tenacity was exceptional and the Judges praised their decorum and court etiquette.  The Judges also offered constructive criticism and practical guidance to assist the students to improve their written and oral advocacy skills. In the end, the Moot winner was the team representing the Appellant.

Both teams are being congratulated by the firm's Managing Partner, Mrs. Nicole Ferreira-Aaron

Mrs. Ferreira-Aaron presents the Hamel-Smith Challenge Trophy to the winning team: John Lee, Angel Kungiesingh and Ariel Agostini

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