A Trip to the Royal Courts of Justice - Hurstpierpoint College

A Trip to the Royal Courts of Justice

Recently, the Sociology department spent the afternoon in London at the Royal Courts of Justice. During this short visit, the students were lucky enough to have a Q&A discussion with a working judge to start off the afternoon.

As a tribunal judge, he spoke about his personal pathway into a legal career, as well as the alternative ones that can be taken for those of us considering law. After this, he was asked about discrimination within the legal system which links to our studies of Crime and Deviance and he gave a detailed explanation which addressed how everyone carries biases, subconscious or not. However, in a bid to minimise these biases, he went on to explain that throughout the process of becoming a lawyer you are trained to leave these outside the courtroom and consider only what is presented during a case. He hoped that any qualified person within the legal system simply responded to the evidence presented to them, rather than using pre-determined judgements.

He also explained the stratification of the court system and what cases each type of court subsequently deals with. After summarising the difference between a criminal and civil court, he provided an insight to how sentencing works, particularly how this differs for minors. This led the students into participating in a mock court case which used a real case that occurred in the Royal Courts of Justice back in 2012.

Within the mock case, I was the defence solicitor whilst Cristabel was a witness. After familiarising myself with the events of the case, I had to prepare questions to ask the prosecution witnesses. I did this by reading through the real witness statements and trying to pinpoint any areas that could discredit the prosecution against the defendant. I also had to interview the witnesses for my defence, so that I knew all the evidence to form my argument. Questioning the prosecution witnesses mirrored a real court case, as you had to react to the narrative each witness was creating whilst stood within what is normally a working courtroom. During this part of the day, Cristabel took on the role of two witnesses from both the defence and prosecution side. She experienced being questioned on the stand which gave her a clear view of every position in the court and how it works. The mock court reinforced both of our interest and fascination in the world of Law and Criminal Justice which was great to experience. After completing the trial, the jury came to a not guilty verdict in contrast to the other court room which considered the same case where they came to a verdict of guilty on the charge of joint enterprise. The judge then handed down a sentence of 15 years imprisonment which shows the great difference that the legal professionals and jurors can make to the outcome of a case. Lauren, LVI Student

After the mock case the students were lucky enough to be toured around the courts. The Royal Courts of Justice building is among the largest courts in Europe with over 1,000 rooms, 80 court rooms and 3.5 miles of corridors!

Students mentioned that a really fascinating part of the tour was the permanent exhibition of legal and judicial costume. This exhibition was opened in 1974 by the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, with the objective of compiling a record of every surviving form of historic judicial and legal costume. The collection now includes examples of judicial robes from England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Italy, Poland, Kazakhstan and Spain.

LVI students Lauren and Cristabel said that their favourite part of the exhibition was the display to represent the year of the Sex Disqualification Act 1919, which allowed women to become Solicitors, Barristers, Magistrates and Jurors for the first time. Red robes and a black 1960s evening dress, belonging to the first female High Court judge in England, Mrs Justice Lane, are also on display to give us an insight into every aspect of judicial life.


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