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SULS red-faced after moot plagiarism

Tom Gardner lawyers the lawyers.

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jim-carrey-liar-liar

The Sydney University Law Society has been left red-faced after it was revealed that the scenario for its international law moot was plagiarised from a book. The society has postponed the moot and issued a new scenario after Honi Soit raised the allegations on Thursday.

The moot, ostensibly written by a law student, required competitors to debate an international dispute about an ambiguous border and a contested treaty.

The original problem question was substantially identical to problem questions published in Stephen Hall’s book Principles of International Law. Except for changes to the dates and names of parties and a new Game of Thrones theme to the question, the sentences were almost word-for-word the same as the scenario in the book.

Not only did the SULS document fail to acknowledge the original author, but it featured the name of the author on every page. The author was part of last year’s victorious University of Sydney team for the Shine Lawyers National Torts Moot, also winning the award for best speaker in the final.

James Higgins, President of SULS, expressed surprise when told of the plagiarism. “SULS was not aware of any problems with the Public International Law Moot problem question until this issue was brought to our attention by the author of this Honi article. An experienced mooter offered to prepare the problem question and SULS accepted this offer, as is common practice.”

“We have contacted all the competitors in the moot explaining that a new question will be released on Monday, outlining that the timetable of the competition will be pushed back by a week in order to ensure that no competitor is disadvantaged, and apologising for any inconvenience caused by these changes,” he said in a statement. Higgins did not respond to questions in detail.

The e-mail sent to competitors did not disclose what problems had emerged, simply stating that “the 2014 Preliminary Problem Question for the Public International Law Moot has been compromised” and that as a result, the original problem question would be declared void.

Principles of International Law included “suggested answers” for the problem questions, which could give an unfair advantage to any student who happened to find the book. The Law Library has nine copies of the book; all copies available for normal borrowing are currently on loan.

SULS describes its international law moot as its “most prestigious internal moot”. The winner of the grand final usually becomes part of the University of Sydney team for the worldwide Jessup moot.

The author, the SULS competitions directors and the moot convenors did not respond to Honi’s requests for comment.

Examples of Similarities

From Principles of International Law:
According to Art 2, the parties are required to ‘decommission and scuttle their existing fleets of naval submarines by 31 December 2005’. Article 3 specified that the parties must ‘refrain from acquiring or commence the construction of any new naval submarines.’

From the author:
According to Art 2, the parties are required to ‘decommission and scuttle their existing fleets of naval submarines by 31 December 2014’. Article 3 specified that the parties must ‘refrain from acquiring or commence the construction of any new naval submarines.’

From Principles of International Law:
Zeta originally entered into the treaty because its intelligence service had determined that Epsilon had acquired the capacity to construct nuclear-powered submarines, a capacity which Zeta did not possess.

From the author:
Winterfell had originally entered into the Pact because its intelligence services had determined that Casterly Rock had acquired the capacity to construct nuclear-powered submarines, a capacity which Winterfell did not possess.

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