The Getting Court Project

Getting Court started in April 2015, the objective being to get young students in to a “live” Court room to see judges dishing out justice. The fact is that very few of us have ever been in to a court (thank goodness), but it is both an interesting and harrowing experience which we should all experience early on in our lives for a number of reasons.

First, it is very reassuring to see the legal system and those who work in it at work, from top to toe, supporting society. Children can often think that these people are remote and unapproachable. In fact, what they see in court is completely the opposite. The judge is, surprisingly, a human being, and explains his thinking,  for example on sentencing to the children. The police and probation services are also there, supporting the victims of crime and seeking to find the best solutions for society.

Second, Getting Court demonstrates, sometimes graphically, what happens when you step the wrong side of the line. Seeing a man who funded his drug habit through minor burglary being sentenced to 36 months in jail, and having the judge explain the dangerous consequences of drugs to them had a considerable impact on one of our first groups. Most of them thought Judge Ross should have passed a much harsher sentence! 

Third, the children see that there is a career out there in those professions involved in the legal process. We have had children interested in becoming solicitors or barristers, and some who are interested in becoming probation workers and policemen. We have even had a student who wants to become a forensic scientist. Getting Court gives the students an opportunity to see how these people work, and it may even be possible for students to meet with them after court and find out more about these professions.

Getting Court on Television

 The local television channel, That's Oxfordshire, has made a short documentary with John Mason School in Abingdon about 'Getting Court'. In a series of interviews with a teacher, Bob Clarke (Inclusion Manager) and a couple of students, the impact of the initiative is discussed. Tebessum, aged 17 and a six former, talks of her aims to become a Judge or a Barrister, and Josh, aged fourteen, explains  how his relationship with the staff at school has changed since he has decided to be 'good' and become a policeman. Both students explain how Getting Court helped them make their decisions.

The film can be found on Youtube at ' Getting Court: Abingdon school ' or by using the following link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmy2-RjJYLo&t=30s

Getting Court Party

Getting Court held its annual fund and awareness raiser at Modern Art Oxford on 1st March 2017.  To a backdrop of the Lubaina Himid:Invisible Strategies Exhibition, and hosted by Mrs Sarah Taylor, High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, eighty guests enjoyed a drink and listened to a couple of testimonies from students who have participated in the initiative, The guests included teachers, County Council Education and Social welfare  employees, Crown Court staff, judges and magistrates, as well as the Lord Lieutenant and the Thames Valley Police. The evening was deemed a great success....

A Trip to the Old Bailey

Following our glorious success at the mock magistrates trial competitions, the High Sheriff of Oxford very kindly invited us to the internationally famous Old Bailey. We spent the whole day in London, firstly visiting two livery companies, which both were very grand and posh, and secondly the Old Bailey. As most of us are only 12 and 13, we were delighted as we were allowed to see a real court case in action. The court room was nothing like you see on TV, we watched as the defence lawyer made an extremely tedious one and half hour speech about why his client was innocent! 

However the thrill of seeing a real crime heard in court was truly magical and a once in a lifetime experience we are very lucky to have under our belts. After hearing part of the case, we had a fact-packed informative talk from Judge Joseph, who told us about her experiences as an A-class crime judge and the difference between the sad people who commit murder and the bad people who commit murder.  She also reminded us that although she is a Judge she does not decide whether a person is innocent or guilty, that is done by the Jury who are ordinary people like you or me (except older than me as you have to be over 18). Once again we thank the High Sheriff for giving us the chance to have the day out in London.​

By Jan (Year 7)

John Mason School (Abingdon) and Oxford Spires Academy (Oxford) were invited to spend the afternoon at the Old Bailey during half term. The two groups of ten students travelled up to London with their teachers by train and minibus, and we all met up at The Stationers Hall, in a small side street between St Paul's Cathedral and the Courts. 

This Hall houses the Stationer's Company , a Livery Company created 600 years ago by a group of mediaeval tradesmen to join together and protect their trades. Originally members were booksellers, writers, and bookbinders, and they are now primarily publishers, (and members of related professions). We were kindly invited to eat our packed lunch there, and then we were given a tour of the building by the clerk of the Company, William Alden, ex-High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, who explained to the group the history of the Livery Company, and put the beautiful building in historical context by explaining the damage incurred , first by the Great Fire of London in 1666, when the original Hall was completely destroyed, and then by the German bombing campaign of the Second World War in 1940-41, when the Hall was luckily not very badly damaged in spite of its proximity to St Paul’s Cathedral. 

Then we walked round the corner to the Old Bailey,which is the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales. Built on the site of the mediaeval Newgate Gaol, this court deals with the major criminal cases from within Greater London, and occasionally elsewhere. We were shown round the building by the Secondary of London, Charles Henty, who is the court manager, and he explained to us that there are 18 working courts, and then showed us into the Public Gallery of a courtroom. We watched a part of two trials - one for misconduct in public office, the other for kidnapping.

We then had a great Q and A session with a Judge Wendy Jacobs, who talked to the students about her job and the justice system. This was fascinating and the students fired off lots of very good questions.

Finally we were offered tea and a drink, and the afternoon finished off by the Secondary letting the students get into the back of the  Rolls Royce used by the judges on official occasions.

By Elizabeth Parker

Law Lecture

 The 2016 High Sheriff's Law Lecture took place on the 11th October, in The Examinations Schools, Oxford.  The lecture - entitled 'A matter of life and death',  explored the issues around the maintaining - and withdrawal - of life support systems in the cases of incapacitated patients. Delivered by The Honourable Mr Justice Baker, this heady - and somewhat sobering - subject gave food to thought for the 200  'A'  level students who attended from eleven schools in Oxfordshire, some of whom have been brave enough to enter the Essay Competition! The winner's prize is £100, and a week's work experience with Freeths Solicitors.

There will be an awards ceremony to present the prizes in November..

Mock Trials 

The High Sheriff with Mock Trial Participants
The Magistrates Association, in conjunction with the Citizenship Foundation, organizes the Mock Trials every year and a fierce competition between 7 teams took place at the Magistrates Courts in Oxford on Saturday, 12 March 2016.  Each school fields a team of about 15 children who take the roles of barristers, defendant, witnesses, court clerk, legal advisors and the magistrates themselves. This is a fabulous opportunity for Year 8 and 9 pupils to demonstrate their skills as potential advocates, and to learn how a real trial works, and the sometimes extremely difficult decisions which have to be taken by magistrates (and indeed judges). The magistrates who organize the Mock Trials and the teachers put an enormous amount of work into making the event a success, and it certainly is worthwhile. As well as being a challenging experience for the youngsters, it is also enormous fun for all. This year Oxford Spires Academy, which entered 2 teams, won the Oxford heat  and so they and the runners up, St Birinus School,  Didcot will go into the Regional Final in Reading in May, before the National   Finals which are to be held  the Royal Courts of Justice in London this year in June.

 The mock trials will be held again in March next year and if you are interested in participating please contact Janet Machin at janet_machin@btinternet.com. Registration takes place in October. For further information go to http://www.lawinschools.org.uk/resources/magistrates-courts-mock-trial-competition

Getting Court Evening at the Crown Court

In January, Getting Court hosted an evening in the Crown Court in Oxford for people to hear about the project. Hannah Prince, who goes to Gosford Hill School in Kidlington, said that she had been so inspired by the session she went to that she now wants to be a forensic scientist. She said: “I learnt that no matter how much you mess up in life you can always learn from it and be successful. It inspired me." 

“The judge said ‘you can succeed in anything if you believe in it’. It’s quite hard but if I believe in it I can do it. I haven’t found school easy, but I want to get 10 GCSEs at A* to C. I left court with lots to think about.”

Teacher Stephanie Clinch, who is Head of House and Head of alternative curriculum at Gosford Hill, explained that before coming to Court the pupils had been taught about the judicial system and had read up about past cases., and after court the class discussed the cases, the effect of drugs and alcohol and the crimes including violence, burglary and sex crimes. 

 

Ms Clinch added: “Getting Court has had a significant impact on our students. We have not reached them all but we have made a difference to some, and some is all the difference.It puts a face on crime, that’s the reality of it ! "