LAYING DOWN THE LAW
In December 2018, a team of 15 Year 13 and 14 pupils participated in the Regional Heat of the National Bar Mock Trial Competition. The competition is facilitated by the Citizenship Foundation, a charity that aims to enable and encourage young people across the UK to actively participate in, and make a positive difference to, the societies in which they live. The team engaged in a simulated criminal trial - an immersive, active learning experience which afforded the team the opportunity to take on the roles of barristers, witnesses and court staff to prosecute and defend specially adapted, real life legal cases, against other schools.
On the day of the Regional Heat, held in Derry Courthouse, teams from a number of schools battled against each other in the respective trials of two cases: one case focused on a
defendant accused of committing an acid attack, and the other focused on an accusation of the transfer of criminal proceeds. After winning the Final of the Regional Heat, the team qualified for the UK Final. Each year, the judging panel for the Regional Heat, comprised of legal judges and barristers, also award one student from the heat the title of ‘Best Barrister’, to acknowledge their strong advocacy skills. Roise Pelan, Year 14, was awarded the title on the day after impressing the judges with her composure, critical thinking and skill in cross-examination of witnesses.
The team travelled to Edinburgh in March 2019, to participate in the UK Final of the competition, held in the Court of Sessions. The St. Mary’s team competed in three rounds, and encountered teams from across England, Scotland and Wales. Each member of the team skilfully undertook to complete their role on the day of the Final. The team were analytical and articulate when presenting arguments and showed that they were capable of mature and independent thinking. The team must also be commended for their integrity and positive interactions with, and encouragement for, their opponents in each round. The team had a fantastic experience on the day, and it was particularly special for them to be able to participate in the UK Final this year, as it was also a celebration of the 30th year of the competition.
For the 2018/19 cycle of the competition, 197 school teams competed in local heats held across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 24 teams made it through to the UK Final held in Edinburgh Court of Session. Expertly prepared for all stages of the competition by Mrs Murray and Mrs Gordon, the St. Mary’s team were delighted to learn that they were placed 5th overall in the UK. The team were wonderful ambassadors for St. Mary’s and for Northern Ireland, not just when they were competing, but for the duration of the trip.
We are grateful for the assistance of Catherine Devlin BL, and for the generous sponsorship from Collins Solicitors, John J. McNally Solicitors and The Bar Library.