On Wednesday 6th December, we were visited once again by students from UEA Law School. The students, as part of a group called Streetlaw, give up their time to work with schools and colleges to inform, educate and enthuse young people about all aspects of the legal system in the UK.
They began by testing our sixth formers knowledge and understanding of the current UK legal system, asking questions about the role of a barrister, the different types of court and the different types of judgement that can be made in them. They then moved on to introducing the case: Solomon Gunn, a local allotment holder, was accused of causing GBH to two young people who, on the night of 23rd July, had broken into his shed with the intention of stealing goods. Once roles had been allocated the task began of preparing for the mock trial.
Working in small groups, each with a Streetlaw volunteer, the sixth formers were guided through their roles and given assistance to prepare a convincing “performance”.
Those students who had been allocated a role as judge and jury were able to participate in a debate on whether a jury should be allowed to give a final judgement in a trial. There were some very thoughtful, persuasive arguments on both sides and some lively debate with the side arguing For juries being judged to have put forward the most effective argument.
After 60 minutes, and some swift furniture arranging, the main hall was transformed into a courtroom. An authoritative judge (Sam Andrews) ably assisted by Usher Annaliese Cameron took charge of proceedings. The Prosecution and Defence barristers were called upon to deliver their opening arguments before the business of calling, questioning and then cross questioning witnesses began.
First to take the stand was Edna Busybody - a confident performance by Kiera Spooner in defence of Mr Gunn by his close neighbour. The next Prosecution witness to be called was Sam Colt aka Riley Donohoe. After some superb method acting (Riley had acquired a limp!) Sam dealt calmly and convincingly with questions put to him by an efficient Defence barrister in the form of Lily Stagg. Next came the Defence witnesses. Firstly Adelaide Gunn (Abi Street) the devoted wife of Solomon Gunn defended her husband’s actions from a calm but confident Prosecution barrister in the form of Holly Wilson. The second Defence witness was Solomon Gunn himself - a moving performance by Emily Collins emphasising his vulnerable physical state despite strong questioning from Connor Parrish Prosecution barrister. Finally after closing statements from both Prosecution and Defence - a particularly competent performance from Oliver Flint for the Defence - the jury retired to consider their verdict.
After a tense 6 minutes the jury returned and delivered a not guilty verdict much to the delight of a relieved Mr Gunn.
After the mock trial there followed an opportunity for Sixth Formers and Year 11 students to speak to the UEA students and find out more about studying law, a career in law, studying at UEA and university life in general.
Thanks go to all involved but in particular to the Streetlaw volunteers who once again gave up their time to work with Fakenham Sixth Form students. All those who participated gained valuable experience in constructing and presenting an argument, as well as developing their teamwork and communication skills.