A BIKE theft has sparked a student showdown at Worthing Magistrates’ Court.
Four schools have been battling it out in court today, for the Worthing heat of the Magistrates’ Court Mock Trial Competition 2014.
A total of 48 students, aged 12 to 14, from Durrington High School in Worthing, Sir Robert Woodard Academy in Lancing, Purbrook Park School in Waterlooville and Warden Park School in Cuckfield were fighting for a place in the next round.
They took 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.
During the morning, they had to enact a specially written case, in which the defendant stood accused of dishonestly receiving a stolen bicycle.
Each school had to both prosecute the case and defend it in two separate rounds, followed by a question and answer session, visit to the cells the chance to meet a police dog handler.
Magistrate Brian Rigby, who organised the local round, said the competition enabled 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 helped the teams prepare by giving information on the everyday workings of magistrates’ courts and hosting court visits.
Some of the students took the part in the court reporter and court artist competitions.
There will be 63 heats taking place nationwide over the next three weeks, followed by regional finals in May and the prestigious national final at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court in June.
A teacher whose school entered last year’s competition said: “This is an excellent opportunity for students to participate in a completely realistic legal scenario.
“It is challenging and stimulating and I know that our students gained a lot of knowledge, confidence and enjoyment from taking part.”
See the Worthing Herald on Thursday to find out how this year’s teams got on.