An Olympics special

The late drama, climactic finales and last minute appeals – this is the Olympics, litigation style

Last week, Monckton Chambers’ Paul Harris QC was instructed by Charles Russell partners Mary Bagnall and Ian Lynam for Paddy Power as the bookmakers was first out of blocks in the race to ruffle LOCOG legal chief Terry Miller’s feathers.

Charles Russell litigation associate Justin Reid was dashing to the High Court like Usain Bolt to file a request for an interim order stopping LOCOG removing Paddy Power’s billboards, before a call from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer revealed a last-ditch U-turn (26 July 2012).

The firm is also on standby for Nike, whose Greatness campaign attracted a lot of attention last week, but so far not of the legal variety. That said, Harris is understood to be retained by the global sports giant, in case of any future LOCOG action.

Harris has been kept back by Monckton specifically for picking up Olympics work, while clerks at those chambers who are part of the pro-bono panel, such as 1 Crown Office, 2 Hare Court and 4 New Square, are burning the midnight oil allocating work to their nominated counsel.

Normally the bar would be winding down for the summer right about now, but a selection of rising sports advocates are on one-week ‘on-call’ shifts. They’ll be exchanging a lack of sleep for an enhanced profile.

A number of cases have already been heard by the Court of Arbritation for Sport (CAS), which has a panel of 12 arbitrators to serve on a committee that gets 24 hours to settle disputes in a bid to provide immediate resolutions.

Charles Russell and Harris were both involved in one such case on Wednesday night, with Irish boxer Joseph Ward claiming Montenegrin rival Bosko Draskovic’s Olympic place should go to him. Ward’s claim to the wildcard entry – argued by Irish barrister David Casserly – was rejected.

Harris was instructed directly by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) lawyers – with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC) as co-respondents – to successfully uphold its original decision.

Charles Russell partner Jon Ellis, associate James Eighteen and trainee Ben Rees acted for interested party Draskovic, who kept his place at the games.

4 New Square barrister Daniel Saoul successfully acted for the Montenegrin Olympic Committee. Saoul and his specialist sport counsel set-mate Graeme McPherson QC are on the bar pro-bono Olympic rota. The chambers has almost as big a presence at the games as China and, for the moment at least, more victories than Team GB.

Saoul sat on the tribunal that determined Aaron Cook’s appeal against his non-selection by British Taekwondo. He acted for the British Wrestling Association in its challenge to the British Olympic Association’s decision to take two host nation places from it for the Games and chaired the British Fencing selection panel.

The set’s Richard Liddell acted for Sydney gold medallist rower Rowley Douglas in his selection dispute with British Rowing, while McPherson overturned a selection decision by British shooting for his client. Richard O’Brien advised on immigration matters for a national governing body enabling citizenship, and Team GB Olympic participation, for an elite athlete.

Leading this pack of sporty 4 New Square barristers is head of chambers Sue Carr QC, who has been determining a number of selection appeals on behalf of British Pentathlons as an arbitrator.

As an estimated one billion people worldwide settled down to watch the opening ceremony, Eversheds partner Neville Byford and associate Lucy Webster had a different Olympics experience on Friday night.

At 6.30pm they were appointed by the firm’s Dublin office to defend Irish show jumper Cian O’Connor at a CAS Olympics tribunal hearing into whether he should have to give up his place to Denis Lynch, who had been withdrawn by Horse Sport Ireland on 9 July, due to concerns over his horse Lantinus.

Lynch was represented by Swiss lawyer Monika Gattiker of KRSW Weinmann and Gary Rice, a partner at Irish firm Beauchamps. They instructed David Casserly for Horse Sport Ireland.

Eversheds instructed Fountain Court’s Jeffrey Chapman QC, who managed to confirm O’Connor’s place and clear him to try for a medal.

The horse trading continued until the application was finally dismissed by the CAS at 1am on Sunday – to the great relief of busy vet witnesses and sleep-deprived lawyers.

There was further horse-trading in one of the more remarkable CAS hearings. The hearing involved South African eventer Alexander Peternell and was described by Peternell’s lawyer Trevor Watkins, head of sport at Pinsent Masons, described as “an extraordinary set of circumstances”.

Prior to the games, all competitors and their management teams agreed to abide by CAS rulings. Yet when Watkins, Pinsents partner Sarah Boon and counsel Andrew Hunter QC of Blackstone Chambers won the first hearing, bagging their client a place on the South African Equestrian team, the country’s sporting authorities ignored the decision, triggering a series of further CAS hearings.

Eventually the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) and South African Equestrian Federation (SAEF) represented by David Beasley SC and John Cuzen of Cuzen Randaree solicitors in South Africa, gave way.

Unfortunately in these cases – as in the games themselves – there is always someone that loses out. A Seb Coe to a Steve Ovett, or visa versa.

In this case, it was South African team rival Paul Hart, who was represented by Ian Mill QC of Blackstone Chambers, instructed by partner Stuart Cutting and solicitor advocate Laura Heeley of Wright Hassall.

Just to add to the courtroom drama, Watkins’ victory speech aimed a broadside at the SASCOC and SAEF’s “flagrant disregard for due process”.

If the sporting action hasn’t quite exploded into life just yet, the legal duelling this summer is providing ample thrills and spills already.

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