Opening up the Bar

The Mock Trials Competition introduces the law and the jury system to young people, whether they are likely to become lawyers or to end up in the dock. HHJ Christopher Kinch QC explains

You might have noticed that the advocates in Court 4 at the Royal Courts of Justice that afternoon did look a bit on the young side and you might have observed that they looked remarkably composed as they waited for their case to be called on in the court where the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales usually sits. They had already completed three trials in the course of a court day that had started at 9.30 (on a Saturday) and at 3 p.m. they were ready for their last trial of the day. That level of “productivity” would have bean counters at the Ministry of Justice salivating. Every defendant had turned up. All the witnesses had been on time. There were no disclosure issues or problems or legal arguments and the judges were completing their summings up in 5 minutes or less.


It was not a vision of a utopian Criminal Justice System but the final of the Bar National Mock Trial Competition for Schools, now in its 22nd year. The teams contesting the final were from Penyrheol Comprehensive School near Swansea and from Plymouth High School for Girls. They had fought their way through the regional heats held in the autumn to compete in the national finals where, earlier in the day, they had seen off 14 other teams from state schools all over the United Kingdom.

The final trial concerned an allegation of possession of a rather nasty self loading pistol, seen in the passenger footwell of a Range Rover being driven by “Knuckles” Malloy. The defendant Ashley Rollins indignantly rejected suggestions that he was a bodyguard for Malloy. He claimed he was a personal trainer and that Malloy, who he thought ran a legitimate modelling agency, was helping him find sportswear modelling work. The nickname must have been acquired because of Malloy’s habit of clicking his knuckles. The case had firearms residue and DNA evidence and a vanishing takeaway pizza that may or may not have got in the way of things. The students rattled through the evidence and the trial concluded with two superb closing speeches that would not have been out of place at the Old Bailey. Plymouth High School for Girls ran out narrow winners.

The Bars of England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland give the competition, organised by the Citizenship Foundation, generous support, financial, material and personal. Every school needs at least one barrister helper to steer them through the procedures and answer questions about courtroom behaviour. Around the country members of the Bar, usually volunteering through their local Mess, visit schools and help them prepare. Many Recorders give up their time to act as Judges in the Regional Heats.

For the final rounds, the Circuit Leaders turned out in force as Judges which is remarkable given the amount they have on their plates at the moment and it is a tribute to them personally and to the regard in which this competition is rightly held. It is a great example of the unsung work that many in the profession undertake to contribute to public legal education and indeed to social mobility. It can also set young people on the way to a successful career. An assistant solicitor from Ashursts commercial property department was at the final to support her old school Stokesely from the north east. Her interest in a legal career had been sparked by participating in the competition a decade ago.

The competition is a fantastic vehicle for introducing the law and the jury system to young people whether they are likely to become lawyers or to end up in the dock. It is also an excellent opportunity for barristers to contribute to good legal education. Sadly your participation does not earn you CPD points but I guarantee it will put a smile on your face.

If you are interested in volunteering to help, or if you would like to try your hand at writing a case for the competition, please contact Sufiya Patel, Project Manager, Mock Trial Competitions at the Citizenship Foundation: sufiya.patel@citizenshipfoundation.org.uk.

His Honour Judge Christopher Kinch QC is a trustee of the Citizenship Foundation and has been involved in the mock trial competition for many years.

Big Voice’s Just Rights moot
Big Voice London’s annual Just Rights moot concluded on Thursday 18 April in front of Lord Neuberger in the Supreme Court, which saw the four finalists tackling issues of blanket Do Not Resuscitate Orders and disability discrimination.

Big Voice works with young people in London schools to explore issues of legal identity and equality. The annual moot pairs postgraduate law students with the project’s participants, who are tasked with helping to make complex law accessible, assisting in preparing submissions and competing as a team.

The first round of the competition began with thirty two pairs, and since then students have explored topics including police kettling, the right to privacy and the use of torture evidence in criminal proceedings. All competitors attended the final round, where we were grateful to welcome the British Institute of Human Rights, who addressed the students on the impact of human rights on our legal system, and access to law.

Congratulations to our Just Rights 2013 winners, Eden Howard and Alice Bacon, our runners up, John Gallego and Amanda Hadkiss, and everyone who competed. We are grateful to all at the Supreme Court, the British Institute of Human Rights and Garden Court Chambers who supported us.

For more information about Big Voice London, please visit www.bigvoicelondon.org

Rosie Bayley, Big Voice project director

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