Most of us never get to see inside a courtroom, unless we’re caught up in a case or taking part in jury service – it’s no wonder that the whole process can seem mysterious. But the Magistrates’ Courts and Crown Courts services are the building blocks of our legal system and to understand how they work is fundamental to understanding the rule of law in our democratic society.

Immersive experience

Our Mock Trial competitions give secondary-school pupils an unrivalled opportunity to learn first-hand how these vital pillars of the legal system work – they are among the most popular and highly-regarded legal education programmes in the country.

We run two competitions for different age groups:

The Magistrates’ Court Mock Trial competition is aimed at 12-14 year olds and introduces them to the workings of the UK magistracy, where relatively minor cases are heard (most motoring offences, minor criminal damage, being drunk and disorderly) and sometimes burglary and drug offences. These cases are usually heard by two or three Magistrates. There is no jury.

The Bar Mock Trial Competition is for 15-18 year olds and focuses on the Crown Court system, where serious criminal cases are tried, such as murder, robbery and rape. Crown Court trials are heard by a judge and jury.

In both competitions, school teams are often mentored by volunteer legal professionals so that they fully understand the processes and know how to get the best out of them.

Real courtrooms are used, both for regional heats and national finals. Legal cases (which are specially written by volunteer lawyers) are heard in front of real magistrates and real judges, who give their time free of charge.

In most cases, the competitions will be the first time young people have come into contact with the law – and almost certainly the first time they’re been inside a courtroom.

School teams learn to play the roles of all participants in court cases including prosecution, defence, witnesses, clerks, ushers, and jury members (in the case of Crown Courts), getting a truly immersive experience of the process.

They learn vital concepts of our legal system including ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Both competitions teach them teamwork, public speaking skills, logical reasoning and clear communications. Above all, they emerge from the competitions with greater confidence and self-belief.

Learn more about the various Mock Trial Competitions we coordinate.    

The Competitions depend on the support of our legal volunteers. Get involved!

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