Members of the judiciary are involved in a wide range of work beyond hearing cases in court, this includes work on Local Justice Boards, Court Boards, Parole Boards and Mental Health Review Tribunals.
Many judges and magistrates are also actively involved in work with students on initiatives such as Judges in Schools and mock trial competitions.
Judge Rivlin, former Resident Judge at Southwark Crown Court, said:
There is a lot of enthusiasm amongst judges for visits by schoolchildren to the courts.
Any students – as long as they’re aged at least 14 – are welcome to come along, with their teachers, but it’s important that the court should be given advance notice, for two reasons:
- the judges will be able to advise them on which case would be the most appropriate and interesting for them to see
- the judges can make arrangements to spend time with the class at the end of the day, talk to them and answer their questions
Judges often have teenagers coming in during their school holidays for a little bit of work experience – they can’t really do much work, of course, but they can spend a few days in court, spend time with the judges and get a feel for what life as a lawyer would be like, what the law is all about and how cases are tried.
Coming into court also helps correct the popular misconceptions young people may have formed from watching TV programmes featuring judges, including:
- every trial takes one hour of television to complete
- every case has a resolution and is exciting and dramatic, and
- judges can say or do anything they want in court and impose any sentence they like
Many judges really welcome young court visitors. It’s a great chance to show them the robes and wigs, and also to explain the rules that govern everything we do – and prove that we’re just human beings.
We can also explain how much trouble we take to ensure that cases are tried fairly, that witnesses aren’t intimidated or frightened, that jurors are looked after properly and what, if they are unlucky enough to become a victim of crime, will be done to protect and support them in giving evidence.
We remember that young people are the jurors of the future too. I always ask my young visitors how many judges are from ethnic minority backgrounds and they guess two, three, four or five. Then I tell them the true figure is actually tens of thousands, because anyone can become a juror and decide a case – in effect, acting as a judge. I want them to understand that they have a real stake in the judicial system, and that it does concern them.
It’s just lovely to see young people and have the fun of hearing what they’ve got to say about the courts and the law – they can be so intelligent and perceptive.