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16 June, 2010

Young people tackling todays issues in court

Students from 18 schools across England, Wales and Northern Ireland are to take part in the national final of the Citizenship Foundation’s Magistrates’ Court Mock Trial Competition on 26 June. The teams of 12-14 year olds, the regional finalists from over 350 state-funded secondary schools, will take on the roles of lawyers, witnesses, magistrates and court staff to compete in the 16th annual competition, at the historic Victoria Law Courts in Birmingham. The competition aims to introduce young people to the legal system in an innovative and exciting way with real-life cases that tackle key issues facing young people, including knife crime and online harassment.

The online harassment case has proved to be particularly popular among the students. Social networking websites have millions of users worldwide, and online bullying is a real issue that many young people can relate to. In April 2010, Nottinghamshire police reported that crimes alleged to have involved Facebook had greatly increased in the past year. The crime most commonly reported to involve the social networking website was harassment (source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/facebook/7546238/ Crimes-involving-Facebook-up-346-pc-police-force-claims.html).

The teams will compete against other schools in a real courtroom, as prosecution and defence, their performance will be judged by real magistrates and legal professionals. The competition develops pupils' confidence, public speaking, analysis and team work skills, as well as increasing their awareness of the law and its relevance to them. Teachers have noted that pupils gain a greater insight into law and order by taking part in the competition. A participating teacher said: ‘It's an excellent idea for promoting understanding of the legal system, especially of individual rights in the magistrates' court and of fostering confident formal speaking and a competitive spirit.'

It also serves as a refreshing and positive example of young people in today's society. According to the Youth Justice Annual Workload Data 2007/08 by the Youth Justice Board (2009) the number of young people entering the justice system is falling.

The competition is organised by the Citizenship Foundation in partnership with the Magistrates' Association, local magistrates and court staff. The Citizenship Foundation provides support to competing schools via a comprehensive guide, which details competition rules, court procedures and information about the criminal justice system. The competition is funded by Her Majesty's Courts Service.

Schools participating in the national final are:
• Acklam Grange
• Bloomfield Collegiate School
• Bradfield School
• Bullers Wood School
• Charters School
• Enfield County School
• King Charles I School
• Penyrheol
• Robert May's School
• St Bernard's Catholic Grammar School
• St Birinus School
• The Gilberd School
• The Peele Community College
• Thomas Estley Community College
• Tring School
• Wilmslow High School
• Wolverhampton Girls' High School
• Wymondham College

Media contact
Emma Doyle at the Citizenship Foundation, tel: 020 7566 4134 or email emma.doyle@citizenshipfoundation.org.uk.
If you would like to attend the final please see the invite attached to this email or contact Emma Doyle (as above).

Notes to Editors

About the Citizenship Foundation
The Citizenship Foundation is an independent education and participation charity (no 801360) that aims to encourage and enable individuals to engage in democratic society. Founded in 1989, our particular focus is on developing young people's citizenship skills, knowledge and understanding of the law, democracy and public life. We do this by championing civic participation, supporting teachers and schools with the delivery of citizenship education and by working with young people in community-settings on issues that concern them. www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk

Further information about the Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition
Each year the Magistrates' Court Mock Trial Competition involves approximately 370 schools (4,500 students) across the country, from schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The competition is now in its 16th successful year. It is nationally co-ordinated by the Citizenship Foundation in partnership with the Magistrates' Association. The Magistrates' Association is the membership organisation for magistrates in England and Wales. It is funded by its members to represent their interests. The Association supports magistrates in dispensing justice fairly and efficiently within their courts, and works to promote confidence in the magistrates' courts system.

It is funded by Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS) an executive agency of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). Their remit is to deliver justice effectively and efficiently to the public. They are responsible for managing the magistrates' courts, the Crown Court, county courts, the High Court and Court of Appeal in England and Wales.

The competition benefits young people by:
Providing students with a valuable insight into our criminal justice system;
Functioning as an important teaching resource for the citizenship curriculum;
Offering the opportunity for students to meet and talk to legal professionals;
Giving students a chance to improve their public speaking skills and self-confidence.
For more information please see www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk/mcmt

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