School pupils from across Northumberland will be taking part in a mock trials competition next month.
Around 80 young people , aged between 12 and 14, will be fighting it out at South East Northumberland Magistrates’ Court in Bedlington on Saturday, March 15.
And the youngsters themselves will take on the roles of lawyers, witnesses, magistrates, court staff and a defendant in the 20th annual competition, which is run by the Citizenship Foundation in partnership with the Magistrates’ Association.
The students will enact a specially written case in which the defendant stands accused of dishonestly receiving a stolen bicycle.
The competition enables students to learn about all aspects of the criminal justice system – the law, procedures, consequences and the staff – and to develop confidence in personal skills such as public speaking, analysis techniques and working as a team.
Local magistrates, law students and other legal professionals help the teams prepare by giving information on the everyday workings of magistrates’ courts and hosting court visits.
Students may also take part in the court reporter and court artist competitions.
Pupils from the Duke’s Middle School in Alnwick will be taking part in the contest, alongside Cramlington Learning Village; Morpeth’s Chantry and Newminster Middle Schools and Seaton Sluice Middle School, to be crowned the winner of the local heat.
Heats are taking place across the country with the final at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court in June 2014.
In 2012, the Duke’s Middle won the competition going through to the regional final at Sunderland.
They were given £250 and a cup for their achievement.
One teacher involved in last year’s mock trial competition said: “This is an excellent opportunity for students to participate in a completely realisticlegal scenario.
“It is challenging and stimulating and I know that our students gained a lot of knowledge, confidence and enjoyment from taking part.”
The competition is nationally organised by the Citizenship Foundation in partnership with the Magistrates’ Association, local magistrates and court staff.
The competition is funded by Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service and the Jomati Foundation.