Representing AUT in the 2017 Sentencing Advocacy Competition gave law student Abhijit Desai an incredible opportunity to experience the realities of criminal law. Abhijit, who made it to the finals against 23 other participants, impressed the judges with his skill and brought home the win.
The Sentencing Advocacy Competition, presented by the Ministry of Justice and the New Zealand Bar Association, provides an opportunity for law students to learn how the sentencing process works and to develop their advocacy skills by appearing before Judges of the Auckland High Court.
Competitors received a fact scenario of a crime committed by a fictional offender, and were allocated a role as prosecution or defence. Adopting courtroom etiquette and attire, they made submissions to a High Court Judge and responded to questions from the bench. The aim: persuade the Judge to impose on the offender the sentence they think is not only appropriate, but also most advantageous to their client.
Getting to the final involved making it through the preliminary rounds and a semi-final. 24 participants - 16 from the University of Auckland, four from AUT and four from the University of Waikato, were whittled down to eight and then to two.
The final round of the competition was open to the public and held at the Auckland High Court.
“The competition tested my advocacy skills, both oral and written, and challenged my understanding of sentencing principles and their practical application. It exposed me to courtroom advocacy in a unique way”, said Abhijit.
His opponent in the final was Honor Kerry, an LLB(Hons)/BA student from the University of Auckland and a Chapman Tripp summer clerk. “Her extensive mooting experience showed in what Justice Heath remarked was an incredibly impressive showing.”
The competition made for a superb learning experience, and winning was the cherry on top.
“It's fantastic to test yourself against some of the best law students in the country and to receive positive feedback from the judges. For me the win is a recognition of the fact that AUT has developed an incredible criminal law teaching team that puts its students in good stead for the future. I'm proud to have impressed the judges and delivered the win for AUT.”
The judges were impressed with the thought and skill on display throughout the competition; with Justice Heath saying that he would be happy to have either of the two finalists appear in his court for a real sentencing.
Professor Warren Brookbanks said, “We are very proud of Abhijit and what he has achieved. He was one of the team that was placed in the recent ICC Asia Pacific Commercial Mediation competition. It is very gratifying to see our students doing extremely well.”