Aspiring barristers at The College of Law have for the first time been able to practice their cross-examination skills in a real Crown Court setting, complete with genuine police officers giving evidence and practising members of the Bar acting as judges.
In a pilot scheme new for this year, the College has moved its annual mock trials for Bar Vocational Course (BVC) students out of the usual simulated court-rooms located in College centres and into actual Crown Courts in London and Birmingham.
More than 350 students acted as barristers during the recent series of trials, which took place in the Inner London, Blackfriars and Birmingham Crown Courts.
Over the series nearly 100 police officers from Hendon Police Training School and West Midlands Police took to the stand to give evidence while nearly 100 practising barristers and members of the judiciary took the roles of judges.
The juries were made up of members of the public, students from local universities as well as College of Law students undertaking the Legal Practice Course and Graduate Diploma in Law.Bloomsbury College of Law BVC students, police officers and members of the Bar take part in mock trials at Inner London Crown Court
Bloomsbury College of Law BVC students, police officers and members of the Bar take part in mock trials at Inner London Crown Court
Nick Ross, Senior BVC Tutor at the College’s Bloomsbury centre, said: “The trials were a huge success and gave our Bar students an exciting opportunity to consolidate the skills and knowledge acquired on the course in a real court setting, in front of current practitioners. We already teach the students in mock court-rooms at the College but this is as close to the real thing as we can achieve and should really benefit them as the next time they do it will be for real.”
As well as cross-examining police officers the students made opening and closing speeches and presented complex legal arguments. At the end of each mock trial the jury gave their verdict.
Victoria Vizia, a part-time BVC student at the Bloomsbury centre, took part in the mock trials at the Inner London Crown court.She said: “It was a fantastic experience and a great consolidation of all aspects of criminal law and practice that are taught on the BVC. The opportunity to view the trial process from the perspective of a witness or a member of the jury was also a valid experience. Indeed this aspect of trials has been discussed recently on BBC Radio 4 - that more advocates need to better understand the trial process from the witness’s perspective.”
Barrister Andrew Jackson from St Philips Chambers in Birmingham played the role of judge at Birmingham Crown Court.BVC students from The College of Law in Birmingham outside Birmingham Crown Court. Left to Right: Mitchell Lennard, Romain Marshall, Thea
BVC students from The College of Law in Birmingham outside Birmingham Crown Court. Left to Right: Mitchell Lennard, Romain Marshall, Thea Osmund Smith, Claire Hainsworth, Richard Grimshaw, Saffie Sankareh, Georgina Credland He said: “The huge benefit of a mock trial, especially in a real courtroom, is that it gives students a taste of the immediacy of the action. They have to think on their feet, cope with targeted questioning by qualified lawyers and learn to, as one judge put it, "sell their product" to a sceptical audience.
“There is simply no better way to learn about the trade and the tools of the trade. All the books in the world and all the talks in the world will never be a substitute for the invaluable experience that mock trials, conducted in a functioning courtroom, give to the aspiring advocate."