Wymondham: Students' knowledge put on trial

Sam EmanuelStudents' legal and acting skills have been put on trial in a re-enactment of court proceedings.Sam Emanuel

Students' legal and acting skills have been put on trial in a re-enactment of court proceedings.

The Norfolk leg of the annual Magistrates' Court Mock Trial competition was won by a team from Wymondham College, with one magistrate saying he was 'bowled over' by the students' professionalism.

The competition gives young people a taster of the legal profession and an understanding of how the justice system works.

The teams of 13 pupils, aged 12 to 14, base their arguments on witness statements provided in advance.

They are responsible for developing their own examination of witnesses as well as opening statements and closing arguments. Each team performs twice, once representing the prosecution and once the defence.

The competition tests their understanding of court procedures and their ability to give evidence and to engage in cross-examination. Students play the parts of prosecution and defence advocates, witnesses, court officials and the magistrates.

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Norwich bench chairman Paul Allen said he was 'bowled over by the clarity of those who spoke and of their understanding of their roles'.

The competition is organised by the Citizenship Foundation and the Magistrates' Association and is supported by HM Courts Service, but the hard work in preparation takes place in the schools where teachers put in extra time to prepare their teams.

The event is supported by volunteer magistrates, lawyers and court staff who also act as judges and lead magistrates on the day.

Crown Prosecutor Oliver Haswell said that this was the third year he had taken part as a judge and he was amazed by the standard set by the young people involved, which kept getting better and better.

This year the teams involved were Stalham High School, Springwood High School from King's Lynn, Norwich's Notre Dame High School and Wymondham College.

Around 60 children aged 12 to 14 took part in the event this month, many of them speaking in public for the first time.

Wymondham were declared to be the winning team by a narrow margin and this team will now take its place in the regional final to be held in Chelmsford on May 8.

The regional finals will decide who is to appear in the national final.

David Carrier, local organiser and justices' clerk for Norfolk, believes the competition allows young people to gain a real grasp of an important area of citizenship in a challenging way and it builds self-confidence.

He said: 'Importantly, young people get a chance to learn about themselves and develop skills that they do not know they have. 'Once again the mock trial competition had proved itself to be a high point in the judicial year for all who observed it.'

Do you have a story for Local Life? Contact Sam Emanuel on 01603 772438 or email sam.emanuel@archant.co.uk.