YOUTH KNIFE CRIME TRIAL
On Friday 8th March, 2019 Bradford Crown Court No. 1 hosted twenty-five St Bede’s and St Joseph’s Applied Criminology students from Year 12 who are currently studying the WJEC Level 3 Certificate and Diploma qualification, as they carried out a role play crime trial. This ground-breaking project is the fourth time our legal scholars have experienced the real world environment of Bradfords’ Crown and Magistrates Courts.
The criminologists were led through the crime trial scenario by legal expert, Kath Downs LLB, the Learning Manager of the National Justice Museum in Nottingham who had travelled from Manchester Crown Court earlier in the morning specifically to handle and manage the event for our criminologists. The whole exercise was truly inspirational, curriculum-linked and an educational visit that used authentic courtrooms, to help them gain a practical understanding of the law and justice system. The morning’s court appearance involved every student in role playing, before the Judge passed a sentence of 27 years on the defendant for the crime that had been committed.
This was a memorable education programme that took place in a real world setting that the youth legal team recognised from the outside, but the interactive activities that took place in Court Room No.1 broadened their horizons exponentially once inside the confines of the courts complex and encouraged and motivated them to explore legal careers in the future. The self-confidence and concentrated engagement of every criminologist was clear from the moment they entered the foyer of the Crown Court building and were searched as they went through the body-scanning procedure with G4S security staff to ensure that no one was carrying acids; knives; guns or other offensive weapons that could be used inside the building.
Throughout the court appearance the criminologists developed their range of essential transferable skills, such as critical thinking, debate, presentation, research and analytical skills plus speaking, listening and communication skills. Issues of retributive; restorative and rehabilitative justice were discussed by the criminologists as they performed their roles from the prepared scripts provided in the crime trial court papers.
Order in the court was kept by the Judge who heard evidence provided by the criminologists as they carried out their roles as prosecution and defence legal teams prevaricated over the evidence as it was disclosed. Other criminologists performed tasks required by the court such as the court usher and clerk, the jurors, the victim, witnesses and defendant.
When the crime trial hearing went into recess the students learned from the legal expert how the law is made and how it can be changed. They were all encouraged to take an interest in their rights and responsibilities and to become active citizens. They were able to reflect on what is right and wrong and learned how to communicate this to others in non-violent, calm and compassionate ways that demonstrated empathy to the defendant.
Due to the worrying rise in knife-crime throughout the UK this Crown Court workshop actually connected real life experiences with new spaces, as well as civil and human rights considerations, in the minds of every criminologist as the harrowing and thought provoking scenario unfolded in front of them in real time. The criminologists all agreed that taking part in what was a difficult and demanding youth knife crime trial had opened their eyes to the danger and the trauma caused by the after effects of such a distressing incident and agreed that the experience had empowered them to live and work within the law.
At the closure of the trial proceedings the teenage defendant, Master Julian Higginson was found guilty and sentenced by Judge Margaret Ogunkoya to 27 years’ incarceration for the alleged crime! On appeal, this was reduced to a suspended sentence due to the immense remorse displayed by the defendant Higginson, who walked out of Crown Court No. 1 as a rehabilitated, free man to the cheers of all those that had sat through the court hearing in the public gallery.
Putting our criminologists into the court room was an excellent way to demonstrate the English Legal System in action and if it creates one legal career as a result, or prevents one young person from becoming a victim of knife crime it will have been worthwhile.
The National Justice Museum inspires people of all ages to become active citizens, through fun and engaging activities, exhibitions and educational programmes relating to law and justice. They are based at Nottingham’s historic Shire Hall and County Gaol where visitors can delve into the fascinating history of justice through time.
Role play is a central feature of their provision and you will meet historical characters, explore an immense collection of artefacts and take part in a range of interactive games and activities, as you discover how law and justice contribute to all of our lives.
Their education programmes are delivered in Nottingham, London and the North and they help people of all ages and walks of life to gain a practical understanding of the law and justice system, so they are inspired by their rights and responsibilities, to play an active role in society.
Mr AJ Walker
Applied Law & Criminology Teacher