School students prove their legal prowess to the shadow Attorney General in mock trials at Cardiff Crown Court
249 school students from schools in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will show off their legal knowledge and skills at Cardiff Crown Court on Saturday 22 March.
The students are finalists in the 23rd Bar National Mock Trial Competition. Each of the seventeen school teams have been boning up on the law since last September, and have already won their regional heats. They are the shining lights of public legal education, and they're landing on Cardiff tomorrow.
With recent alarmist stories about clueless jurors and cries for more legal education in schools, these young people are living proof that you shouldn't believe everything you hear.
The Bar National Mock Trial Competition, now in its 23rd year, is just one of many successful public legal education initiatives; its 2014 grand final is a prestigious moment in the public legal education calendar, showing just what can be achieved with a little imagination and the energy of teachers and the legal profession.
The school students will battle out criminal cases in front of some of the most prestigious and intimidating judges we can muster, including former Bar Council Chairman Stephen Hockman QC, leading criminal lawyer John Cooper QC, Lord Justice of Appeal Sir Rupert Jackson, Chair of the Bar Council Northern Ireland Mark Mulholland QC, Recorder of Cardiff Her Honour Judge Eleri Rees, and crossbench Peer, Dulwich College Chair of Governors and former Principle Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, Lord Turnbull.
And they will be judged by the shadow Attorney General, Emily Thornberry MP. The stakes are high indeed.
‘The competition has altered my opinion of the legal system because I can now see how the legal system can help protect the public and support them.'
(Student from the London regional heat)
‘I understand about how the legal system works now, especially as I'm not a law student. It has been so interesting to think about forming an argument and questioning as well and legal procedure and court etiquette. I loved taking the opportunity to visit the local crown court too. I always knew members of the public were allowed in but it made me actually go along, so interesting. I'm very glad I went.'
(Student from the Cardiff regional heat)
‘I understand the legal system more, so I have more confidence in it. I know that it's fair.'
(Student from the Newcastle regional heat)
The Bar National Mock Trial Competition is funded by the Bar Council, the Faculty of Advocates, the Bar Library of Northern Ireland, the Inns of Court and the Circuits. Speaking on their behalf, Nicholas Lavender QC, Chairman of the Bar of England and Wales, said:
'The Bar Council is delighted to support this Competition, which engages over 2,000 students every year and is now in its 23rd year helping young people to understand important issues surrounding citizenship and the justice system.
'In addition to providing financial support, the Bar Council is extremely proud that over 300 barristers and 90 judges volunteer their time each year to bring the legal system to life for the Bar National Mock Trial Competition - especially at a time of great challenge for many parts of the Bar.
'The Bar Council is committed to enhancing understanding of the law and the legal profession, and this is just one of the ways in which we help to provide young people with a meaningful insight into our legal system.'
The seventeen finalist schools that will be competiting tomorrow:
- Alcester Grammar School (Alcester, West Midlands)
- Alton College (Alton, Hampshire)
- Aquinas Grammar School (Belfast)
- The Becket School (Nottingham)
- The Boswells Academy Trust (Chelmsford, Essex)
- Dalriada School (Ballymoney)
- Mackie Academy (Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire)
- North Halifax Grammar School (Halifax, West Yorkshire)
- QE Academy Trust (Plymouth, Devon)
- Queen Mary's College (Basingstoke, Hampshire)
- St Alban's RC High School (Pontypool, Torfaen)
- St Peter's Catholic Comprehensive School (Bournemouth, Dorset)
- Spalding High School (Spalding, Lincolnshire)
- Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar School (Tunbridge Wells, Kent)
- Upton Hall School FCJ (Upton, Merseyside)
- Wilmslow High School (Wilmslow, Cheshire)
- Wirral Grammar School for Girls (Wirral, Merseyside)
Best of luck to them all!