Deer Park pupils in court.
On Saturday 10 March 2018, 14 Year 9 pupils travelled to Chippenham to compete in the Wiltshire heat of the Magistrates’ Court Mock Trial Competition. This initiative is part of the SmartLaw programme which helps improve young people’s life skills, their understanding of the justice system and the legal system, and helps them to understand that the law touches every aspect of their lives.
Our pupils have been preparing for the trial since December and each had a different role to play in the functioning of the court, from witness to prosecuting lawyer. The team worked extremely hard learning their different roles and analysing the case.
In January, Mrs Burfoot, the Year 9 Senior Year Leader, took the group to the Magistrates' Court in Chippenham, where they were able to talk to magistrates and watch a real trial take place. Pupils found this experience invaluable.
“I learnt a great deal from the trip to Chippenham court. It really enabled me to appreciate the different roles we would be playing and see the live action!” Ella
On Tuesday 6 March the group spent the day going through the case with a magistrate and local barrister. Pupils showed excellent resilience as we had a last minute change of defence barrister due to illness, and they really valued the opportunity to talk through their roles with experts.
“In my view, a good understanding of our justice system is a vital part of our children's education. Mock trials are a fantastic way for them to learn not only how our courts work but also to develop lots of other skills, amongst them confidence in public speaking, strategic thinking and team work. It was an absolute pleasure to work with this group of students while they prepared for the competition. They were focused, hard-working, lively and full of questions. I was very impressed with their advocacy, the care with which they had thought through the brief and their roles in the trial, and their support of each other.” Rachel Troup, Barrister, Pump Court Chambers
Although the Deer Park team did not win the competition on Saturday 10 March, they all worked well and gained a great deal from their experience, whether being more confident at public speaking or considering a career in the law.
“My mock trial experience was not only eye opening, but also really fun. It was good to mix with other schools and I am glad I had the opportunity to take part. I loved it and it has made me consider a future in Law.” Ella
One of the parents who was able to join us to support the pupils commented:
“I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in on the afternoon session of the Mock Trial Competition. The court proceedings were extremely well run and I was impressed with the professionalism of all the children taking part. They had clearly worked hard to rehearse their roles and had a clear understanding of what was required of them on the day. It takes some courage to stand up and cross question witnesses in a packed Courtroom!
After the tension of the court the students had a good chance to let off some steam while being shown round the cells in the basement. Exciting stuff! We then entered the court room again to hear the verdict. It was all quite nerve wracking! The contributions of the actual magistrates and police officers present were fascinating.
The Deer Park pupils did so well - what a valuable experience - I think all those who took part should be really proud of themselves!”