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Bishop's Stortford High School students win Cambridge regional heat of Young Citizens' Bar Mock Trial Competition

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Fledgling legal eagles at The Bishop's Stortford High School won the regional heat of a mock trial competition for young people.

Acting as barristers, witnesses, jurors and court officials in only their second outing, a 16-strong team from the London Road secondary impressed a range of highly-qualified barristers and legal professionals with their astute arguments, measured responses under cross-examination and management of the courtroom.

The team prosecuted the case of R v Summers against London's Wilson's School in the first round of the Cambridge heat of the Young Citizens' Bar Mock Trial Competition. This was a case of witness intimidation between two acquaintances following an allegation of burglary.

All but one of the Cambridge regional heat winners from The Bishop's Stortford High School
All but one of the Cambridge regional heat winners from The Bishop's Stortford High School

Prosecuting barristers Jess Brown and Malachi Jacobs deftly guided their witnesses, Charlie Marrion and Henry Aylett, who stepped up at the last moment to reveal the potentially incriminating evidence against the defendant. The witnesses then faced questioning from Wilson's but stood by their story.

While the defendant was found not guilty in the trial, the students were judged on their individual and team performances. The judge praised Malachi Jacobs for his ability to clearly present the legal particulars in his closing speech.

The team then switched to defence against Saffron Walden County High in the case of R v Piper, which involved an allegation of actual bodily harm following a bar fight.

Bishop's Stortford High School's team of barristers, witnesses, court clerks and ushers
Bishop's Stortford High School's team of barristers, witnesses, court clerks and ushers

The defendant, again played by Henry Aylett, was convincing in his claim of self-defence along with crucial supporting evidence provided by Isla Burrows as a witness. Following a not guilty verdict and praise from the judge for the eloquence and confidence of all speakers, the team headed into the last round with excitement building.

The final saw a return to the case of R v Summers, but now the team was defending the allegation of witness intimidation. Barristers Daisy O'Brien and Tom Harding succinctly identified the weaknesses of the prosecution's case and highlighted to the jury that the burden of proof rested on the prosecution to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Isla Burrows and Joel Henderson, as the defendant and supporting witness, faced a series of difficult questions from Ware's Presdales School's prosecuting barristers but stood firm.

When the jury returned a swift verdict of not guilty, the judge delivered strong praise for the TBSHS barristers, in particular Daisy O'Brien for her unsettling and demanding cross-examination. Josh Cameron and Tom Woods deftly handled the difficult logistics of a virtual courtroom.

The Bishop's Stortford High School jury team (55262334)
The Bishop's Stortford High School jury team (55262334)

Year 10 students Adrian Atanassov, Henry Aylett, Tom Greenhill, Dan Harris, Ravi Jethwa, Lewis Ng and Rahul Rana also acted as jurors.

Head Dale Reeve said: "The mock bar trial is a brilliant initiative that forces students to think critically, develop a deeper understanding of the law and really hone their skills in debating and public speaking.

"They need to present in a mature, coherent way and work effectively as a team, which our students clearly did very well in winning the regional heat. Whether it be acting for the prosecution or the defence, they carefully crafted some very convincing cases and judges rightly rewarded them.

"Huge congratulations to all the students involved. They did a fantastic job and represented the school with great pride."

Mr Reeve thanked colleagues who coached and supported the students. "The staff have worked extremely hard to continue to offer countless enrichment opportunities, despite the challenges of the pandemic, as we know it has such a positive impact on the all-round development of young people, and the mock bar trial is a great example of that."

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