A MOCK inquest was organised on behalf of the Isle of Man Law Society by Vicki Unsworth of advocates Smith Taubitz Unsworth.
The hearing was part of the society’s regular programme of mock courts.
These are aimed at promoting best practice in advocacy where trainee, newly qualified and junior advocates are given the opportunity to gain practical experience at the Isle of Man Courts of Justice, observed by their peers and senior members of the Isle of Man Bar and judiciary who volunteer their time.
The society’s newly elected president Kevin O’Riordan said: ‘Trainees have the opportunity to observe their colleagues and benefit from feedback.
‘Mock courts also serve as a great confidence builder and provide a setting in which trainees can explore the importance of demonstrating courtesy and consideration, values very much part of an advocate’s duty.
‘Practical advocacy skills also help the smooth running of the courtroom.’
The mock inquest was presided over by the High Bailiff John Needham who, before the hearing began, gave an insightful account of coronial law and practice and outlined a number of areas where legislation in the Isle of Man differed from that in England.
The inquest gave trainees Adam Killip of Dougherty Quinn, Ashley Kneale of Quinn Legal and James Robinson of Pringle Law their first experience of representing ‘clients’ at a coroner’s hearing.
Adam Killip said: ‘I found it a very useful experience, particularly given that proceedings at an inquest are inquisitorial rather than adversarial, so the style of advocacy required was very different from anything I have done before.’
Ashley Kneale said: ‘The opportunity to tailor our advocacy skills in a different forum was an invaluable experience.
‘The training sessions, although fictional, come to life when we find ourselves sitting before members of the judiciary.’
And James Robinson observed: ‘The mock inquest hearings show the different types of advocacy that we have to employ in different courts.
‘Despite the fact that we are brought up in an adversarial-based court system, inquests follow the European model of a more inquisitorial style system. You have to alter your approach from putting your client’s case forward and trying to undermine your opponent’s case, to attempting to establish facts without any culture of blame attached.
‘This involves skills that are less frequently employed in usual contentious litigation hearings, so the opportunity to refine these skills in such an environment as the mock court is invaluable.’
The High Bailiff praised the three for ‘not labouring points’ and for ‘adopting the right tone’ adding that the session demonstrated how, in the coroner’s court, the advocate’s role was to be ‘robust but subtle’.
He concluded by commenting that coroner’s law was ‘very often opaque’ so led to a completely different courtroom environment from that to which advocates were more usually accustomed, and said that the mock inquest session therefore assisted the practical advocacy process.
The society has expressed its gratitude to the High Bailiff for contributing such time and energy to this training exercise.
Another round of mock courts will take place in the coming year.