The Rt. Hon. Sir Brian Leveson, President of the Queen’s Bench Division and Head of Criminal Justice, is an Ambassador to our charity. Here he tells us why the Mock Trial competitions that we run with young people matter more than ever.
It is vitally important that young people understand the way in which our society works; what it means for them, and how they can play a full part in it as active citizens.
That includes understanding not only the way our political system, our legislature and our economy operate but, just as important, how our judicial system works and how it affects them.
Society requires a mechanism for the resolution of disputes. This may mean determining whether someone is guilty of a crime and deserving of punishment, or it may mean resolving family issues or civil disputes – which might range from the supply of goods said to be defective, to building work alleged to be substandard or following an accident.
At the heart of our court system are the Magistrates’ Courts, where virtually all criminal court cases start and where more than 90 per cent will be completed, and the Crown Courts, where the most serious criminal offences are tried – almost invariably by a judge and jury.
All our courts are open to the public, for all to observe but, sadly, few people take the time to go and witness the law in action unless they are actually involved in a case. That’s why Young Citizens (under its previous name of The Citizenship Foundation) introduced schools to the Mock Trials Competitions almost 30 years ago.
The best way to show young people how the judicial system works, how difficult it can be to work out where the truth lies, and the importance of the power of argument is to let them experience it for themselves.
In the Magistrates’ Court Mock Trial and Bar Mock Trial Competitions, secondary school students play all the key parts – accusers and accused, witnesses, defence and prosecution lawyers, court clerks, ushers, legal advisers and jurors. What’s more, they do this in real courts all around the UK, with a high-profile national final for each competition.
With cases specially written by legal professionals, the young people have to think through not only what is likely to have happened but why they have reached that conclusion.
Understanding the process adds to their sense of the value of citizenship. It is of real importance in their development as citizens ready to play their part in the society of which we are all members. The feedback we get from young people and their teachers is universally positive. They tell us that the competition gives them more confidence in public speaking, more experience of team work, and – above all – a far greater understanding of the legal system which underpins our democratic society.
Discover how you can get involved in the Magistrates’ Court Mock Trial competition in its celebratory 25th year. Give your students a unique, immersive learning experience they will never forget. Sign your school up today.