Judgement was recently given in the civil action, All Talk Communications t/a Talk ‘n’ Txt v Mrs Nora Telfer. The case was an action for payment concerning a disputed mobile phone bill. The court heard evidence from a number of witnesses; deliberated over many points of debate; and considered arguments relating to the legal capacity of Mrs Telfer’s grandson. The judges took some time to consider all the evidence presented before giving their judgement.
Instead of being represented by qualified solicitors, the parties in this action were represented by groups of primary 6 and 7 pupils from various schools across the country. This was as part of the Schools Mock Court Project; a cross-curricular project which sees pupils take part in their own pretend court case. Using skills from across the curriculum, pupils take up a number of roles – including lawyers, researches, journalists, court artists and gown makers – to present their case in court in front of real Sheriffs and Judges.
The classes are split into groups of pursuers and defenders and matched with another school to act against in the case. To help the pupils get to grips with court procedure and processes, a number of our trainees at Brodies attended various schools over a few months to help the teams develop their legal arguments, debate techniques and presentation skills.
During our first tutor session we discussed the role of the court and the justice system; explained how the court process worked; and introduced the case to the pupils. We also made a start on drafting the initial writ and defences to give the pupils an idea of how they looked. The children had great fun trying on court gowns and starting to think about the arguments they could present. We left the pupils to expand on their pleadings ahead of our next visit.
On our second visit we adjusted our pleadings with the lawyers in the team in response to the arguments made by the opposing school. We also had a chance to see what the other pupils in the class had been doing including the art work produced by the court artists; the newspaper articles drafted by the journalists; and the progress made with the court gowns the class were making in school colours. It was great to see the pupils’ creativity, enthusiasm and excitement for the project.
For the final session the classroom was set up like a courtroom for a practice run of the trial. We practised how to address the judge; examine and cross-examine witnesses and make persuasive closing statements. Over the following weeks the pupils appeared before sheriffs in each of the regions for their trials. The six best teams then progressed to the finals at Central Hall in Edinburgh where they appeared in front of three prestigious judges. The ultimate winner was announced by the judges and awards were given out for the different elements of the project, including the ‘Brodies Award for Artistry.’
It was truly inspiring to watch the children perform in court and, after months of preparation, it was great to see their hard work pay off. There was some incredible acting from witnesses; amazing artistry and gown making skills; and remarkable advocacy by the pupils – the project may even have inspired a couple of future lawyers!
Next year the project is being expanded to cover the whole of the South of Scotland. In a recent press release The Lord President, Lord Carloway said:
The Mock Court Project is an excellent initiative, as it provides an opportunity for primary and secondary school pupils to learn about the role of the court within the justice system, and to develop their presentation and communication skills by appearing before real judges and sheriffs in a real court. I am pleased to express my support for the project, and hope that some of the young people who participate will be inspired to become solicitors, advocates and perhaps judges.
Visit the Mock Court Project website to find out more – and for tips on how to get involved!
On May 4, 2017