As the leagues were announced and last minute preparations were made to both costumes and submissions, rarely before can a Crown Court have seen so many trials listed with so little prospect of any of them resulting in a last minute plea of guilty.
Each team was required to prepare two cases and provide students to play the parts of counsel, witnesses, defendants, ushers and court clerks. The league rounds and the final itself were presided over by judges, recorders and senior members of the Bar. One of the cases involved a charge of perverting the course of justice, while the second concerned a student who was alleged to have set fire to a box of examination papers in a school office. The competition organisers will no doubt be hoping to avoid a spate of copycat incidents during the forthcoming GCSE and A Level season.
The competition, organised by the Citizenship Foundation in association with the Bar Council, the Bar Council of Northern Ireland, the Faculty of Advocates, the Inns of Court and the Circuits, provides students from all parts of the UK with an opportunity to witness and take part in what happens during a criminal trial. It was obvious from watching the competition unfold and speaking to some of the students that they had prepared thoroughly with the assistance of those barristers who had volunteered to lend their experience and knowledge to the schools that had entered. What was even more obvious was the enjoyment had by both competitors and judges and the enthusiasm of those taking part.
Queen Elizabeth Community College from Crediton in Devon and Whitley Bay High School from Tyne and Wear emerged as the two teams with the highest number of points. In front of five judges and many of the day’s other competitors, supporters and organisers, they contested the grand final. The pupils from Whitley Bay High School were ultimately crowned winners and were described by their deputy headteacher, Rachel Mays, as being “euphoric at having won this prestigious competition”. After the final, all those who had taken part were commended for their performances and commitment.
By the end of the competition, more than 2,000 pupils had had their analytical abilities and public speaking skills tested in a formal courtroom setting. If this competition is anything to go by, those currently sitting on pupillage and selection committees can be reassured that the next generation of applicants to the Bar are bright, capable and enthusiastic about joining the profession.
After acting as one of the judges during the final, Tim Dutton QC, Chairman of the Bar, said: “The Bar Council is proud to have been involved in the competition—now for 17 years. The competition brings out the best in those who take part and amongst them will be some of the country’s future advocates and judges. It has been a great team effort: the enthusiasm of the students, the dedication of the judges, barristers, court staff and organisers all combine to make this competition a great success.”
Patrick Ryan is a member of the Young Barristers’ Committee and practises in criminal law from St Johns Buildings, Manchester
Become a barrister adviser
As well as providing an excellent opportunity for the students to view the legal profession at close quarters, the competition also allows the profession to get involved in a number of ways including as a “barrister adviser” to assist the schools in their preparation for the regional heats and if successful the final; a volunteer to assist in the running of the heats and final; or providing advice (and possibly wigs and gowns) to teams on the day of the final. The continued involvement of the profession is essential for the success of the competition.
If you would like to help with the Bar National Mock Trial Competition, please contact the Citizenship Foundation (tel: 020 7566 4154, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.citizenshipfoundation.org.uk).