By Elizabeth Parker of Getting Court.

Getting Court promotes the relationship between the Oxfordshire secondary schools and Oxford Crown Court by organising visits for students to the working court.

The project was started in 2015; from one visit a month back then, the popularity of the court visits is such that we now take groups of children from Oxfordshire schools to court twice a week.

We work regularly with three quarters of the secondary schools in the county, and we can offer each of them one or two days in the academic year.

We also have a more frequent arrangement with Meadowbrook, the Pupil Referral Unit.

The teachers decide who they are going to bring into court. Often students who are interested in a career in law, law enforcement, or are simply curious, attend the sessions.

For those who are making the wrong decisions, it can be a cautionary and often harsh reminder of the possible consequences of their actions, and those who are vulnerable can be reassured by witnessing how the justice system works to support the victims of crime.

They can also see how the judges, probation officers and the police work to find the right solutions for those who have committed crimes.

We take groups of up to 15 students each time aged between 12 and 16. The morning starts with an explanation by a court clerk of the layout and workings of the courtroom, and then we choose what will be the most appropriate and impactful case for the students on that day.

Proceedings then start, and we see a wide variety of issues; juries being sworn in, bail being arranged, part-trials where we see and listen to presentation of evidence, barristers putting forward their cases.

We are usually in court on Thursdays when the judges sentence those who have been found guilty by jury or have pleaded guilty.

This is when a man or woman’s freedom is at stake, and this always affects the students. They have strong opinions on the length of sentence, and they often see the impact on the families of the defendants who are sitting in court with us. The judges find time during the morning or at the end of the sitting to talk to the students and answer questions. We also try to engage with a barrister and a police officer to enable the students to talk freely about their concerns and to better understand the process by which justice is administered.

Students particularly enjoy talking to police officers in relaxed circumstances. The reality of our British judicial system is a far cry from the crime shows that the students watch on TV.

The Government and judiciary recognise that it is important for the court process to be demystified, and the more people play an active role in their own justice system, the safer our communities will be.

The Getting Court initiative encourages the students to feel involved. Indeed, recently a student wrote describing one of the judges as “our” judge.

As a result of feeling part of the system, we believe that these young people are more likely to resist the criminal elements in society, report crime, and coming forward as witnesses.

On Tuesday, Getting Court hosted an evening in Oxford to highlight awareness of the “county lines” phenomenon and knife crime. Two of the Oxford judges, Judge Pringle and Judge Ross outlined the threats to young people and what can be done to tackle them.

Getting Court believes that helping teenagers understand the consequences of crime can help them navigate through the very real threats of modern life in Oxfordshire.