At November’s HR Breakfast Club forum, BAL Lawyers Litigation and Dispute Resolution team conducted a Mock Trial. Based on proceedings before the Fair Work Commission, Ian Meagher, Director Litigation and Dispute Resolution, played the part of the Commissioner. As the cased unfolded, evidence was presented to the Commissioner by witnesses on both sides. John Wilson, Legal Director of BAL Lawyers Employment Law & Investigations Group, was the plaintiff’s legal representative and was up against the staunch defence of Kate Meller, BAL Lawyers Litigation & Dispute Resolution Team’s Senior Associate.
How does a Mock Trial Work?
Mock trials are essentially a fun, interesting and realistic way to present to audiences how cases play out in forums such as the Fair Work Commission, or other courts and tribunals. Audience members are given a brief outline of the case and volunteers are sought to participate as witnesses. Lawyers playing the part of legal representatives are briefed on the situation at hand. Volunteers are given brief direction as to facts inherent to the case and how to respond to questions and cross examination. How the case plays out on the day comes down to the specific ‘evidence’ given by witnesses, responses from the legal representatives and of course, the Commissioner’s interpretation of evidence brought before the commission.
The Mock Trial Case
The Mock Trial was based on a decision held in South Australia, Kore v Chief Executive, Department of Premier and Cabinet (on behalf of the Chief Executive, Department of Health and Ageing). This case involved a Midwife working at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital disclosing confidential information about a patient to a member of the public. Specifically, the Midwife told a mother’s ex-partner that their baby had been born, and the name of the baby. The issue was that the mother and the father had separated and there was a domestic violence order against the father. The Applicant giving this specific information about the child’s birth put the child and the mother in danger. The Midwife was dismissed from her position at the hospital.
In the real case, the plaintiff was found to have been dismissed fairly given the gravity of her actions and potential impacts on the safety of the mother and baby. Our mock version, however, found the plaintiff to have suffered unfair dismissal. Why? Our HR Breakfast Club audience voted and found little evidence to suggest the plaintiff had the requisite training and knowledge to understand the ramifications of disclosing the baby’s name to its father. Additionally, the audience was concerned that there was a lack of policy and training by the Hospital, and lack of support provided to the applicant.