On Saturday 16th June teams from 16 schools across the UK assembled at the stunning Birmingham Magistrates’ Court to battle it out for the title of winner of the 24th year of the Magistrates’ Court Mock Trial Competition.
The national final was the culmination of 48 local heats in March and 11 regional heats in May at 45 courts across England, Wales and Northern Ireland in which over 250 schools competed in mock trials. The students aged 12-14 took on each of the roles in a trial at a magistrates’ court and competed against other schools as lawyers, witnesses, ushers, legal advisers and magistrates.
With the schools at the court and the volunteers briefed the day kicked off in the main hall with an inspiring speech about aspirations and believing in yourself by the Lord Mayor Yvonne Mosquito, introduced by Mark Kershaw the Birmingham Bench Chairman, followed by a rousing speech by the Chair of the Magistrates’ Association and then the trials were underway.
Over the course of two rounds students fought for justice to be served in what was an incredibly close final with performance of a very high standard in each court room. The trials were of Alex Deita and Sam Fenton, in cases of possession of stolen goods and of possession of a bladed article in a public place, ironic with the High Sheriff carrying a sword around the court house. Volunteers on the day told me how extremely impressive they thought the students were.
The results of the competition were announced by the High Sheriff of Birmingham Chris Loughran, the Court Artist Competition won by Millie Elphick, the runner up title going to The Holt School, and the national winners of the competition announced to cheers around the hall as Ranelagh School!
The day was drawn to a close by Young Citizens Chair Martin Bostock who gave thanks to The Jomati Foundation, HMCTS and the Magistrates’ Association whose support allows over 4,000 students to take part each year.
In the competition the students learn about team working, a key feature of how the competition itself runs. It is so important to acknowledge the huge amount of time and effort put in by so many people to make the competition happen. From the amazing teachers who work with and support their students through each stage of the competition, putting hours in at lunch breaks and after school, to the parents who support them to develop their legal knowledge and skills such as confidence and public speaking, to the volunteers across the UK who give up their time to make the competition run at each of the courts.
I am constantly astounded by the performances of the young people in the competition at every stage. With an increasing awareness and engagement from students in world issues I hope that taking part in the programme allows them to develop skills that empower them to make a difference and that what they learn sticks with them for years to come.