As part of the judiciary’s Diversity and Inclusion strategy, judges teamed up with the National Justice Museum to arrange a special events week for eight primary and secondary schools in Manchester. From 6-10 February, almost 300 students between 8-17 years old attended Manchester Civil Justice Centre, where they sat in real hearing rooms, spoke to judges and participated in mock trials involving Suffragettes and Victorian children.
The National Justice Museum usually runs the mock trials at its base in Nottingham, the Royal Courts of Justice in London, and across the northwest. However, these gained a new dimension after Midlands-based District Tribunal Judge Mark Angus arranged for them to be held in a real courtroom in Manchester. Hoping to offer more students across England and Wales a court experience, he and Senior Circuit Judge Philip Glen are arranging similar events in other cities including Liverpool and Cardiff.
Judge Angus, one of many Diversity and Community Relations Judges in England and Wales, told the students that one’s background should not deter them from aspiring to become a lawyer or a judge.
He said: “I started my legal career aged 18 working as an administrative assistant at the Crown Prosecution Service. The judiciary always felt totally inaccessible to me as someone who didn’t grow up around barristers and solicitors. The students invited here will hopefully gain a better understanding of the role of the judiciary, learn about the justice system and be encouraged to see that anyone can pursue a career in law whatever their background.”
Mr Justice Fordham reflected on the week-long event: “I have been along to nearly every session just to see the pupils in action. The feedback has been very positive. So many of the judges and staff are rallying round. I think this is the best thing I have seen in three years as a High Court Judge. I’m very proud to be associated with this.”
Sessions began with students engaging with judges through a Q&A session. Judges stressed the invaluable impact of this in-person, interactive style of learning and were particularly impressed by the considered nature of the questions; one year 8 pupil asked whether a judge’s faith had ever influenced their decisions, which sparked an interesting discussion. Such activities are aimed at encouraging a greater understanding of the role of the judiciary and concepts such as the rule of law.
Gill Brailey, Director of Learning at the National Justice Museum, said: “You can’t match the impact of a young person being in a real court building, having to go through security, knowing there are real legal professionals working there, and dressing up in real wigs and gowns and using a real courtroom.”
The judiciary is involved in other outreach work aimed at young people, including through its Schools Engagement Programme, in which judges and magistrates visit schools. Information is available at Schools Engagement – Courts and Tribunals Judiciary. Here you may also find handouts, lesson plans for teachers and other materials to help schools facilitate learning about the justice system and rule of law.