3 St Swithun’s sixth form law and languages students recently participated in a mock trial in Southampton organised by Blake Lapthorn solicitors, Chandlers Ford and Solent Education Business partnership.
Aysel Akhundova, Clare Symons and Cynthia Yung all played the roles of court interpreters and were joined by students from Itchen College, Ringwood Sixth Form, Peter Symonds College and Hardley School who played advocates for defence and prosecution, interpreters and court reporters. Pupils from years 11 and 12 at Swanmore School formed the jury.
The detailed scenario of the trial had been written by two young solicitors working in the Blake Lapthorn holiday/foreign language department and developed in conjunction with Solent Education Business Partnership. Called ‘The trial of the Etoile d’Or disaster’ the trial was written prior to the recent disaster of the Costa Concordia but provoked added interest due to the similarities. A week before the event those attending were issued with a proper 'bundle' of reports and witness statements, with which they had to familiarise themselves taking into account the role they were going to play.
The day started with group sessions: whilst the defence and prosecution teams prepared themselves for the trial the members of the jury were given a general introduction to the legal system, the role of a jury and a detailed insight into the role of magistrates.
The mock trial was presided over by a senior lawyer involved with the training of younger staff at Blake Lapthorn. Other Blake Lapthorn staff took the role of witnesses. The procedure followed the usual court room procedures from 'All rise' to the swearing-in of witnesses and interpreters. The trial was completed before lunch. After the break the defence and prosecution presented their summaries, the judge once more talked the jurors through their role, who then retired and returned later with their verdict on the criminal case. The judge concluded the proceedings with his judgement on the civil claim.
In conversations with various members of Blake Lapthorn and SEBP the importance of foreign languages was mentioned repeatedly. It was seen as a vital additional skill. Law courses incorporating a language element were rated highly, as was the route of a languages degree followed by a law conversion course. In fact one of the younger lawyers went as far as to say that a pure law degree was very dry and that following one's enthusiasm and interests in another area lead to a more rounded person who afterwards could adapt to the legal word with relative ease.