Northern Ireland Pupils triumph in UK legal challenge
Pupils from Northern Ireland swept the board at the National Final of the Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition in Leeds on Saturday 5 July.Assumption Grammar from County Down became the 2003 national champions, beating 17 other schools from across the UK. And Paul Smith of Foyle and Londonderry College won the National Court Reporter Competition, judged by the Legal Editor of The Times. The Lord Mayor of Leeds presented the shields and prizes to the proud students. Organised by the Citizenship Foundation in conjunction with the Magistrates' Association, the Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition is a unique opportunity for 12-14 year olds to learn about the legal system by participating in a carefully constructed simulation of a criminal case. Teams of school students compete against each other at Magistrates' Courts by taking on the roles of lawyers, witnesses, magistrates, court staff and defendant, with their performance judged by real magistrates and other legal professionals. Alongside the main competition, each team can nominate a Court Reporter, who attends a local heat and writes a newspaper report of the mock trial. Now in its ninth successful year, the competition this year involved around 4,500 young people from almost 350 schools nationwide. It is funded by the Department for Constitutional Affairs and high street retailer Wilkinson. This year, prizes were provided by Collins and the National Final was sponsored by OCR. Christopher Leslie, Minister in the Department for Constitutional Affairs said: 'By taking on the role of lawyers, court staff, witnesses and defendants, young people are given a taste of what it is like to work in the court system. It provides a practical and innovative way to give them a greater understanding of the justice system and its importance in society. Involving young people in this way helps to promote confidence and a sense of ownership of the system and encourages citizenship.'