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18 June, 2012

Birmingham school wins national mock trial competition

On Saturday, King Edward VI Handsworth School won the national final of the Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition, beating more than 380 other state schools.

King Edward VI Handsworth School, winner of the Magistrates Court Mock Trial Competition final 2012
King Edward VI Handsworth School, winner of the Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition final 2012

They were given a run for their money by the other finalists, but ultimately proved the stronger team. The Tiffin Girls' School from Surrey was runner-up.

Teams of students aged 12-14 years from 16 schools across England, Wales and Northern Ireland descended on Nottingham Magistrates' Court. After two challenging trials, King Edward VI Handsworth School was crowned the winner. 

With Olympic fever hitting the UK, students had to defend or prosecute a case of illegally selling Olympic tickets and one of handling stolen goods.

Performances were judged by magistrates and legal professionals. Criteria covered a wide range of skills such as ability to question and follow-up responses, exploring witness statements, etc.

Trevor Greaves has been involved for almost twenty years, both as a teacher and as a magistrate. He says the quality of advocacy and witnesses is 'vastly improved' and is now 'very professional'.

His Honour Judge Stokes QC, Recorder of Nottingham, sat in one of the eight courtrooms in use. Addressing students afterwards, he said:

'I was very impressed. It gives someone like me, who sees on a daily basis the very bad aspects of life in this country, great hope when I see young people like you showing an interest and demonstrating real ability when it comes to this sort of thing'.

Sally Dickinson, the Magistrates' Association's Policy Director, said:

'This competition provides a way of learning about the legal process in a way that brings it alive.

'And the opportunity to do this in real courts makes the experience so much greater.'

Earlier, Citizenship Foundation Chief Executive Andy Thornton challenged the assembled students

'I've been hearing this morning that people have developed new skills ... developed confidence, developed greater understanding about the law, and about how to debate and make their argument work; is that right?

The answer? A resounding 'yes'.

The competition involved over 6,000 young people from 385 state-funded secondary schools.

The school pupils took on the roles of lawyers, witnesses, magistrates and court staff and compete against other schools in real courtrooms, as prosecution and defence.

The annual competition is organised by education and participation charity the Citizenship Foundation in partnership with the Magistrates’ Association and local magistrates and court staff, and aims to introduce young people to the legal system in an innovative and exciting way.

Students from BPP Law School also help out, sharing their expertise with participating teams.

Diana Kirsch, joint Director of the Pro Bono Centre there, says it's an excellent opportunity for law students to practice explaining law to people from different backgrounds.

And, she says, it's 'an excellent way' for school pupils to learn about important aspects of the world around them.

'I think a lot of children probably only know about the courtrooms from what they see on television, on Eastenders. It's interesting for them to actually come into a courtroom to see what happens, to learn about the criminal justice process, the adversarial system.

'They're citizens of this country, they need to know.

'Particularly in London a lot of young people are stopped and searched on a regular basis. I think it's really important for them to understand how they're part of the process and how the law might affect them, and might affect people that they know as well.'

The winning school was awarded the prestigious national shield and HMV vouchers, as well as citizenship and law education resources donated by Hodder Education.

The finalists


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