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31 October, 2011

The law is always changing; our schools competition helps students understand what the law is for

The UK government recently proposed changes to sentencing. Whatever it decides, will it make much difference if people don't understand what the law is for in the first place? We help to make the law relevant to young people.


School students play the roles of magistrates in the Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition

Our Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition helps school students to learn how the law protects people, and about how hard it can be to find the truth even if it looks obvious at first. It pits the students' wits against each other in real courtrooms with real magistrates. (The competition is still open to entries.)

Law is arbitrary to many people, not seen as something that protects them. How do you help people understand the reasons for making and changing laws and to appreciate the complex processes involved?

This is what we have been doing since 1984, when the Citizenship Foundation was just a glint in the eye of the Law in Education Project.

Take our Lawyers in Schools programme, for example. It gets young people to meet lawyers as real people they can question, challenge and chat with. And it works:

'‘My attitude towards the law has definitely changed. I respect its place in society and how lawyers are there to work and care for our rights,' says Bahjo from Haverstock School.

Our mock trial competitions take a different approach. Students take on the roles of barristers and witnesses and present their case against teams from other schools. First they have to become familiar with the case and research the law. Then they have to battle it out in real courtrooms, in front of real jusdges and magistrates.

What more engaging way could there be to get close-up exposure to the legal system without being on the wrong side of it?

The Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition is taking entries for 2011/12. Entry closes on Friday 4 November.

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