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8 June, 2015

Birmingham leads the way in promoting British values of law and justice with national mock trials competition final

On Saturday, the Solicitor General Robert Buckland QC MP welcomed school students from all backgrounds across the UK as they prepared to put their legal knowledge to the test at the Citizenship Foundation's Magistrates' Mock Trial Competition final in Birmingham.

School students cram into Birmingham Magistrates Court
School students cram into Birmingham Magistrates Court

Some 4,700 secondary school students and 1,400 magistrates from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have been involved in this year’s competition.

But just 208 students from 16 schools could get through to the final, and only one of those teams could win – and that team was Fairlands Middle School from Cheddar in Somerset.

Fairfield Middle School, MCMT winners 2015
The wining team from Fairlands Middle School

Fairlands has taken part in the competition for ten years but this is the first time they have made it to the national final. 

And it was no walk in the park. While they may be called 'mock trials', these competitions are no moots: the young people are not being groomed for the legal profession (though some may choose that path). These mock trials aim at nothing less than preparing them for life in the UK and helping them understand the pros and cons of the British justice system. 

Magistrates bench, MCMT final, Birmingham 2015
Young people take their roles as magistrates in Birmingham's Victoria Law Courts

Birmingham has had more than its fair share of criticism when it comes to British values, so it was fantastic to see so many different young people congregate in its grand Victoria Law Courts for such a prestigious event in the public legal education calendar.

And we were delighted to be joined by Birmingham & Solihull Bench Chairman Richard Trengrouse, Birmingham Law Society President Mushtaq Khan and West Midlands High Sheriff Jonnie Turpie.

Richard Trengrouse, Jonnie Turpie MBE and Mushtaq Khan.
Richard Trengrouse (left), Jonnie Turpie MBE (centre) and Mushtaq Khan (right).

For many young people, this competition is their first, positive contact with the legal system that governs their lives. It helps them understand the purpose of law - and the impact it has on people - before they're on the wrong side of it. It is challenging and fun, and it goes a long way to making the justice system relevant to them.

Public Legal Education (PLE) such as this gives people the knowledge, skills and confidence to tackle problems they meet in everyday life.

Our mock trial competitions play an important part in public legal education in the UK; Citizenship Foundation PLE programmes alone engage more than 10,000 young people every year. 

Solicitor General Robert Buckland QC MP, MCMT final, Birmingham 2015
Solicitor General Robert Buckland QC MP opens the event in Birmingham

The Solicitor General Robert Buckland QC MP, said:

‘These mock trials replicate the drama and intensity of a real court room, while casting a light into the complex world of criminal law. I’m sure the young people here will be able to teach their parents a thing or two about the law after this! The competition was particularly fierce this year and everyone did well for getting so far, but particular congratulations goes to Fairlands Middle School for their well-deserved win.’

Sufiya Patel, Mock Trials Project Manager, Citizenship Foundation, said: 

‘We had another general election with a low turnout of young people, yet we know from recent research at UCL that they are much more likely to vote if they have been exposed to citizenship education such as through this competition. Maybe more people would be motivated to hold their MPs to account for what is happening in the justice system if they were legally aware.’

The Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition is organised in partnership with the Magistrates' Association, sponsored by the Jomati Foundation and works with HM Courts & Tribunals Service.

Photography by Paul Clarke.

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