Magistrates' Mock Trial Competition
The Magistrates’ mock trials are a national competition
The Magistrates’ mock trials are a national competition in which schools across the country analyse a court case and compete against each other for the best trial. It aims to give Y9 students an insight into the law, courts and how they function. Tapton School were runners up in the competition, Esme Kenney and Rebecca Hoggard (Y9) report on the event.
(Esme) I decided to take part in mock trials because at the time I was considering a law career, and I wanted to experience what it would be like to be a lawyer before I pursued it further.
(Rebecca) I personally joined because I thought it would be an interesting and unique opportunity. I had never done anything similar.
At the start we looked at old cases from previous years of the competition. We all got to move around parts, for either prosecution or defence. This was invaluable to the process; we all got to find our strengths and weaknesses.
We were given our case sometime after and a chance to look through it before we were assigned roles. They were determined through us writing the roles we wanted on a post it note and our teachers, (Miss Eaton, Miss Allinson and Mr Pearce) placed us accordingly with minimal need for compromise. Rebecca was a defence witness and Esme was a defence lawyer, meaning that Esme would be questioning Rebecca. We were both on the defence’s side, aiming for a not guilty verdict from the magistrates. Therefore we practised together outside of mock trials club to achieve this.
Every Thursday lunch time from around October until mid-way through March, our team practised the trial in 203. Witnesses were expected to memorise their statements in order to answer the lawyer’s questions, and use their drama skills to convey their character. Lawyers were expected to come up with questions to bring forward their evidence from the witness. Magistrates had to practise note taking skills while observing the trial, in order to make a decision as to whether the defendant was guilty or not. Each part, regardless of its significance was integral to our success as a team.
After weeks of rehearsal the day of the competition came. On Saturday 19th March our team arrived at Sheffield Magistrates’ court.
(Esme) Our defence team was first to compete against another schools prosecution; at this point I was terrified but I managed to stay focused when it was my turn to question the other schools prosecution witness. After questioning them I felt a lot less nervous, since now I only needed to question Rebecca who I had rehearsed with. When questioning your own witness you feel much more at ease because you’re co-operating rather than trying to throw them off guard.
Once the first defence lawyer had given her closing speech and the legal advisor had reviewed the case, the magistrates were allowed to retire to another room to decide their verdict. When they returned they had decided that the defendant was not guilty. Although our side had won the case, that wouldn’t be what our teams were marked on. We would be marked on how good our trial was, so the performance of the witnesses, the questions and points brought to light by the lawyers, the reasoning behind the magistrates’ decision, everything would be marked.
After lunch our defence side watched our prosecution team compete against a different schools defence. This was interesting to see and much less tense since we had already finished our trial. Later on when they had worked out our scores, the people in charge of the competition gave out awards for certain roles, such as best defendant or best prosecution lawyer, and then they announced the overall winner of the competition. Tapton came 2nd in the competition, which we were very proud of. To conclude, this is an amazing experience and we gained many invaluable skills.