Law School Visits, Student Experience

Monday in Mauritius

This article was written collaboratively by Benjamin Hutchison, Rebecca Beare and Stephen Kewley recapping Monday’s events during the recent Mauritius trip from UCLan Law.

After an early breakfast at the West Palm Inn we travelled to the UCLan (University of Mauritius Enterprise) campus. We were met by Peter Kay who introduced us to the very friendly staff and students of the LLB programme. The course only started in January and there are 16 students.

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The purpose of our visit was to bring forth our experience of studying at UCLan within the UK. We were split up into small groups of two or three, one UK student for one or two Mauritian students, and talked them through the online UCLan Blackboard space. This consisted of showing them how to use Turnitin for handing in assessments, checking the originality report for plagiarism, how to access their UCLan e-mails, their daily and weekly timetable, and how to access the databases provided by the University such as Westlaw and LexisNexis. For some of the students, we also went through a basic Mooting example to show them the required format and etiquette. We also talked about what they would like to do after university with many being interested in travelling after finishing their degree. It was interesting to find out that they were doing an accelerated course, their 1st year was being done over January-July, and some of the students were considering coming to Preston for the final two years of their degree.

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After a brief lunch with the Mauritian students, Michael Doherty gave a guest lecture about public law to the Mauritian students whilst we were given an introduction to the Mauritian legal system by a newly qualified solicitor, Mr Nutanesh Ramasawmy. It was interesting to discover that the Mauritian legal system derived from both English and French law, with the criminal law taking its roots from the English Common Law and Civil law having a French background with le Code Civil.  The levels of court are different to the English system, having nine District Courts (with both civil and criminal jurisdiction), intermediate courts for more serious cases, and the Supreme Court.  The Privy Council (which is based in London and mainly comprised of UK senior judges) then acts as a final appeal.  Another difference is that (below the level of the Supreme Court) the magistrates sit alone, or in pairs for serious cases. The magistrates, unlike in the UK, are professional judges and are all qualified as barristers.  Civil dispute amounts under 500,000 rupees (being the equivalent of around 10,000 pounds) are heard in the lowest court, with anything higher, going straight to the Intermediate Court.

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The most surprising discovery of the Mauritian legal system was that only Assizes offences, such as murder, are tried by a nine member jury, all other offences are heard by the magistrates.  Even more surprising, is that only a simple majority is required for a guilty conviction, meaning that an accused person could be found guilty of murder on a five to four majority.  It would be interesting to know how many of these convictions are actually found on such a majority and how many are appealed.

A further difference in the Mauritian system is the use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).  There is a mediation branch of the Supreme Court but this is only used when a case has been running so long that the judge refers it for mediation. It is not used at first instance.  Arbitration clauses tend not to be used in Mauritian local contracts but are used extensively in international ones. The ADR ‘industry’ – for lack of a better word – has great potential for lawyers interested in working in Mauritius, including using Mauritius as a democratic, ‘rule of law’ and safe base to conduct business in wider Africa.

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Later in the afternoon we attended the British Council for an event for Mauritian students on studying in the UK. We were hosted by Tristan Bartlett, Country Director for the British Council. The British Council promote and assist with British students studying abroad and foreign students studying in the UK.  We had prepared a presentation on higher education in the UK and on what is distinctive and positive about studying in the UK, We then took part in a question and answer session about UK higher education, which was filmed by the local news team MBC.

The range of different methods of assessment and the focus on skills-based modules were received with interest.  The use of assessed seminars as found at Lancashire Law School was also found to be of interest and the concept of a Freshers’ Week or Fortnight was new to the Mauritians as there is no equivalent.  Some of us were also asked to be interviewed for Mauritian TV channel MBC.  Benjamin impressed everybody by being interviewed in French followed by Rebecca and Stephen in their native English.

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This was followed by local nibbles and coffee before heading back to the hotel for a walk on the beach, then out for dinner.  After deciding to try the curry restaurant recommended by Peter we walked a rather a long way down the beach front to locate the said restaurant, but luckily the walk was not in vain as the food was delicious and an extremely reasonable price.  We were then off to bed for a well-earned rest, ready for the next day’s adventures.

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