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Year 13 Psychology Trip to Warwick Law Courts

On 19 April, Year 13 Psychology students visited Warwick Law Courts.  Here follows a report on their day...

We arrived at the courts at around to be scanned for any dangerous items, not dissimilar to airport security.  We then waited in the foyer to be greeted by court clerk, Ellie Leavesley, who then proceeded to give us a tour of the Magistrates and Crown courts to give us a feel of the layout and what type of crime or appeal would be heard there.

We discovered that the Magistrates court was a lot more informal in terms of layout and proceedings. For example, all crimes have to be heard at the magistrates before they’re passed up to the Crown court; even if they’re only there to confirm their name.  The Crown court was significantly more formal and looked more like the type of court room that we would have imagined; for example, having one seat for the judge and areas for barristers and the press, the jury and the dock for the defendants.  Ellie explained to us some of the archaic and traditional rules of the court, such as not crossing the line of speech and all barristers and people of the court having to wear wigs and robes.  It appeared very old fashioned!  However, it was good to see that the formalities were still in place even after so long.  We then went back to the waiting area and Ellie briefed us on what cases there were on that day.  In Court 1 there was a sexual exploitation case with 11 defendants,  Court 2 was a child neglect case and Court 4 was a knife crime case.  We then decided which case we would watch and proceeded to the public galleries.

Those who went to Court 1 sat near the back of the gallery as family supporters had priority to see the case in progress.  The court proceedings then began.  We heard a number of character references form various family members and friends.  We then went on to hear from one of the defendants.  We were surprised to find out how much detail there was to remember in terms of dates, times and whereabouts.  We were equally surprised at how personal the questioning got, often delving into the defendant’s personal life.

Those in Court 2 heard the defendant describe his view of events related to the neglect of a 2 month old child and his partner.  We also heard the prosecution summing up about the case. It was very direct and the barristers address was very compelling.

The Court 1 case had a break around where Her Honour Judge de Bertodano very kindly allowed us to talk to her about her route into law and her career to date, where we discovered she had been a judge in many foreign countries and had completed a degree in Politics from Oxford before she converted to a Law.  It was very interesting to talk to her and to see her professionalism in the court room.

After this we then waited back outside in the waiting room, where it was interesting and slightly unnerving to have the defendants freely walking around the court building.  We would have had to wait a considerable time before the afternoon courts were in session, so we made the decision to leave and head back to school.

Overall, the time at the law courts was extremely interesting and enlightening and taught us a lot about court proceedings and reaching a verdict, which we all felt was very beneficial to our psychological studies of Forensic Psychology.