Written by: Lucy Robinson and Julie Markova (Year 9)
Edited by: Ayra Ali (Year 12)
‘Mock trials’ is a nationwide competition for Key Stage 3 students. Teams generally consist of 13-15 students playing the roles of Magistrates, Lawyers, Witnesses, Usher, Legal adviser and potentially court artist or court reporter. For the first two rounds of the competition, there is a different case that must be studied and prepared. Each witness will have a statement that they must learn by heart and each lawyer must create a set of questions for the Examination in Chief and Cross Examination.The defence of one team goes against the prosecution of another team and each is scored out of 80 points (10 for each role). Thereby, the lawyers and witnesses from opposing sides cannot know for certain the evidence that will be brought out in court, which certainly requires spontaneity and the ability to think on your feet. The magistrates must decide on a verdict based on the evidence brought up in court that day, and not the evidence heard in practice. However, the verdict of the case does not affect the scores of the lawyers and witnesses.
In the run-up to the competition, we practised every Wednesday lunchtime for six months and rehearsed our roles extensively. We could prepare our questions in advance to a certain extent, but without knowing who we would be cross-examining, we had to be prepared for all possible answers. Another difficult aspect of the competition were the speeches that the lawyers and legal advisor had to prepare. Whilst the prosecution lawyer introduced the evidence in their favour before the witnesses were questioned and the defence concluded the sworn testimony, the legal advisor was in charge of the summary of the law. The purpose of this was to instruct the magistrates, who have no legal knowledge of all the key points of the case.
On the day of the competition (16th March) we arrived appropriately dressed for our roles before 10am at Milton Keynes Magistrates Court. We were then told what teams we would be competing against; our prosecution against Kings Langley in round 1 and our defence against Buckingham Secondary Team 2 in round 2. After a speech from the major, our prosecution filed into courtroom 3. The case commenced for about an hour and although the competition was fierce we left confident that we had done our best. The next case was our defence and was much more challenging. The lawyers were hard to beat and the witnesses were well prepared. Nevertheless, we were still pleased with our performance.
In our county, there are two local heats, from which three teams earn a place at the regional stage of the competition. We won the local heat and progressed to the next stage of the competition, along with Buckingham Secondary’s Team 1 and the winners of the other local heat. As well as winning our heat, our combined score was the highest in either heat, making us the county champions and the winners of the High Sheriffs shield for the first time since 2013. We could not be happier with the outcome and look forward to progressing to the Regional Round in May.