Bar Mock Trial Report
Students from TBSHS, competing in only their second-ever engagement, won the Cambridge Regional Heat of the Young Citizens’ Bar Mock Trial Competition, the most prestigious mock trial competition for schools in the UK. Acting as barristers, witnesses, jurors, and court officials, the sixteen-strong team impressed a range of highly-qualified barristers and legal professionals with their astute legal argument, measured response under cross-examination, and management of the courtroom.
While the chance to impress at the National Finals has been cancelled this year due to Covid-19, the whole team can be immensely proud of their achievement.
The team prosecuted the case of R v Summers against Wilson’s School in the first round. This was a case of witness intimidation between two acquaintances following an allegation of burglary. Prosecuting barristers Jess Brown and Malachai Jacobs deftly guided their witnesses Charlie Marrion and Henry Aylett, who bravely stepped in at the last moment, to reveal the potentially incriminating evidence against the defendant. The witnesses then faced stern pressure under questioning from Wilson’s school, but held to their story. While the defendant was found not guilty in the trial, the students were judged on their individual and team performance, with the judge praising Malachai Jacobs for his ability to clearly present the legal particulars in his closing speech.
The team then switched to defence against Saffron Walden County High in the case of R v Piper which involved an allegation of actual bodily harm following a bar fight. The defendant in this case, again played brilliantly by Henry Aylett, was utterly convincing in his claim of self-defence along with crucial supporting evidence provided by Isla Burrows as a witness. Following a not guilty verdict and praise from the judge for the eloquence and confidence of all speakers, the team headed into the last round with excitement building.
The final round saw a return to the case of R v Summers, but now the team were defending the allegation of witness intimidation. Barristers Daisy O’Brien and Tom Harding did an excellent job of succinctly identifying the weaknesses of the prosecution’s case and highlighting to the Jury that the burden of proof rested on the prosecution to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. Isla Burrows and Joel Henderson as the defendant and supporting witness faced a series of difficult of questions from the prosecuting Presdales School’s prosecuting barristers, but stood firm in their innocence. When the jury returned a swift verdict of not guilty, the judge delivered strong praise for our barristers, in particular Daisy O’Brien for her unsettling and demanding cross-examination. It must also be said, that the smooth-running of the court and management of jury and witnesses could not have happened without the contributions of Josh Cameron and Tom Woods who handled the difficult logistics of a virtual courtroom with surety.
Throughout the day, Year 10 students Adrian Atanassov, Henry Aylett, Tom Greenhill, Dan Harris, Ravi Jethwa, Lewis Ng, and Rahul Rana made up one of the juries for the competition and gained an insight to the workings of the Criminal Justice System and the important role played by jury trials in the UK.
The final announcement of the win for The Bishop’s Stortford High School was a surprise to many for whom this was only their first experience of Bar Mock Trial, but it was a thoroughly deserved victory due to their determination and effort over the last several months. Congratulations to everyone involved!
Dale Reeve, Headteacher, was full of praise for the students’ efforts: “The mock bar trial is a brilliant initiative that forces students to think critically, develop a deeper understanding of the law and really hone their skills in debating and public speaking. They need to present in a mature, coherent way and work effectively as a team, which our students clearly did very well in winning the regional heat. Whether it be acting for the prosecution or the defence, they carefully crafted some very convincing cases and judges rightly rewarded them. Huge congratulations to all the students involved, they did a fantastic job and represented the school with great pride. Thanks also go to Mrs Miles, Mr Conquest and Mr Fraser who helped them prepare and supported them throughout. The staff have worked extremely hard to continue to offer countless enrichment opportunities, despite the challenges of the pandemic, as we know it has such a positive impact on the all-round development of young people and the mock bar trial is a great example of that.”