STUDENTS will pore over police evidence and grill witnesses as a courtroom contest reaches crescendo.

A team from The Cherwell School in Oxford have made it into the final of the Magistrates' Court Mock Trials Competition, which youngsters aged 12-14 can take part in all over the UK.

The competition gives pupils insight into the criminal justice system, challenging them to try fictional cases and take on the roles of magistrates, defendants, witnesses, lawyers and ushers.

Cherwell secured a spot in next month's final after winning the regional heat at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court earlier this month, alongside Glenthorne High School in London.

Cherwell teacher Luke Brewer said: "The clashes were fierce and lawyers from both sides faced extremely well prepared witnesses, who were difficult to catch out in cross examination.

"It was difficult not to be inspired by pupils on all sides.

"Their preparation and commitment to their roles was completely evident - their precision with questioning and deliberations impressed all legal professionals and judges in the room.

"Cherwell’s lawyers might have been young in comparison to their competition, but they more than held their own."

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Mr Brewer coached the Summertown secondary school's team ahead of the regional round, which took place on Saturday, May 4.

The case that won them a place in the final was R v Smith - a common assault of a taxi driver, allegedly in self defence.

Teams from eight different schools competed, with the prosecution team from one school versus the defence from another.

Mr Brewer said: "Despite a 7am meeting, the pupils were raring to go for this exciting but challenging experience.

"After two intense rounds of grilling, interrogation and heated deliberation, the team emerged from their courts awaiting the judges’ decision.

"In this competition, it is not the case’s verdict that is important, but the scores for each member of the team."

Cherwell faced two worthy opponents from schools in London, both of which had previously been to the nationals in the capital city before.

They held their own however, and were named among the two South East teams who made it through.

The national finals will be held in June at the Royal Courts of Justice in London.


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Mr Brewer said: "The pupils’ elation was clear [when results were announced], especially as the National Finals are being held this year in the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

"What an amazing venue for the final round of this fantastic competition.

"Well done Cherwell!"

More than 4,000 students have taken part in the competition since it was founded in 1994, with more than 40 magistrates’ courts in England, Wales and Northern Ireland taking part.

The contest is run by Young Citizens to teach youngsters about the justice system, and to give them a platform through which to improve their public speaking and debate skills, analytical ability and confidence.

Pupils meet legal professionals and discuss real issues, empowering them as active citizens, and cases are usually based on a real trial scenario.