A Bar Mock Trial's alumnus' quest to join the criminal Bar

23 July 2015

Inspired to seek a career at the Bar following the Bar Council-backed Bar Mock Trials competition, Will Taylor has been building up his legal experience, but the cost of study is now his biggest challenge. 

I am a visually impaired A level law student aspiring to read Jurisprudence at Brasenose College, Oxford and practice at the Criminal Bar. My aspirations to read Jurisprudence arise out of my determination to succeed in my ambition of practising at the Criminal Bar but are further spurred on by the fact that my late and beloved grandfather was an Alumnus of the college and I owe to him a debt of gratitude for encouraging my love of education and social justice. 

My love of the law can be attributed to an opportunity I received from my English teacher, namely participating in the Bar National Mock Trial Competition. I can recall a week of late evenings at School preparing for the Mock Trials, which to tell you the truth, I found delightful because of the adrenaline that was provoked by the thought of my first opportunity of being 'on my feet'. On the day itself, I experienced the continuous sensation of nerves, right up until the point of getting to my feet- this was it- once I began my submissions - on behalf of the defence - the previous sense of fear was overtaken by a determination to convey my passion for what I was engaged in, not only to my teachers but also my parents- who had to make up the numbers on the jury. My plan of attack throughout the defence of R v Speed, was built around the fact that the defendant was portrayed as being a foreign athlete in England, therefore, I made a valiant attempt to use this as an advantage. 

When cross-examining witnesses for the prosecution, my tactic was to question as to whether or not they could categorically assert that the defendant understood the various conservations he had had with witnesses. The central point of my defence was that if as ordinary people the members of the jury had visited a new country would they think it right that they were expected to understand the laws of their host country immediately- thus applying this principle to the case of R v Speed. I then had the task of demolishing the arguments I had constructed for the defence when I represented the prosecution before His Honour Judge Gilbart QC. 

I have to confess, I was more comfortable opening the case on behalf of the Crown. I used the fact that, on the evidence, there were no less than four occasions when Mr Speed could have notified someone of his, apparently, involuntary possession of Cannabis. During the cross-examination I attempted to gain the sympathies of the jury by making repeated references to the 'sensible course of conduct' I would expect the members of the jury and indeed any of the sensible people in the Public Gallery, to have taken. 

Once I sat down I felt a sense of accomplishment, this was further elevated by the kindly praise of His Honour Judge Gilbart QC (now the Honourable Mr Justice Gilbart), for my attempts and the advice on where I could have changed tack to have brought about a better cross examination of witnesses. Despite the fact that the jury returned a verdict of 'not guilty', the opportunity to stand in court seven of Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court and plead a case before the Recorder of Manchester gave a great sense of achievement. 

I have undertaken work experience placements across jurisdictions, including commercial, civil and criminal law, as I understand that it is vital for a good advocate to have the ability to turn their hand to handling the wide variety of cases that comes there way, for which such praise should be placed, unequivocally, on the 'Cab Rank' principle that gives equal representation to all who come before the law. The placements have included; marshalling the Usher at Buxton Magistrates and County Courts in Derbyshire, marshalling a Recorder at Manchester Civil Justice Centre, I have undertaken a work experience placement with a junior tenant at Fountain Court Chambers on the 14 April 2014 and marshalling a Partner of Irwin Mitchell Solicitors on the 24th and 25th of June 2014. 

I have undertaken a work experience placement with John Bowers QC at Littleton Chambers to observe the work of a Queen's Counsel who specializes in Employment law on the 30th, 31st of March and 1st April 2015. I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend a day at the Supreme Court, observing the proceedings and meet Lord Neuberger, the President of the Court, on the 9th of February 2015. I also marshalled a Circuit Judge at Snaresbrook Crown Court on the 10th February 2015; and a Senior Circuit Judge at the Central Criminal Court. I am amazed at the warmth and courtesy these eminent people have offered me. I have been fortunate indeed to have been invited to marshall the Honourable Mr Justice Gilbart, who I appeared before at the Bar National Mock Trial Competition in his role as Honorary Recorder of Manchester, at the Royal Courts of Justice to observe the work undertaken by the Queen's Bench Division. 

Outside my legal interest, I have an interest in politics and have undertaken a number of political activities, which have included the following; representing the Liberal Democrats during my Secondary School's Mock Elections in which I was victorious wining fifty one per cent of the vote. . Subsequently to this I recieved an offer from the Right Honourable David Blunkett MP who offered to act as my mentor, I have maintained this connection through my time at Sixth Form College. 

I was awarded a 'Derbyshire Young Achievers Award' in 2005. In my other interests I have a love of opera and have attended a number of performances at various theatres; my favourite performance to date has been Ellen Kent's production of Tosca at the Royal Opera House. In 2012, with the help of the PE staff at my Secondary School, I established the Hope Valley College Fencing Club, which since my departure, has produced a gold medallist in the regional championships. 

For many, myself included, the costs of pursuing my dream of joining the criminal Bar risk becoming an obstacle. The Bar Mock Trials fuelled my enthusiasm for advocacy and I don't doubt I am not the only BMT alumni to face the challenge of raising funds through sponsorship to take the next step towards the Bar. I hope I get there and can return to the Bar Council's blog page in future to write as a barrister.


Will Taylor
Bar Mock Trials Alumni