Academy students reach final of Bar mock trial competition

ON Saturday November 24 a team of 15 students from Banbridge Academy came runners-up in their regional heat in the 22nd annual Bar Mock Trial Competition.

Natasha Moffett, Rebecca Kinley, William Clackett and Radhika Gupta thoroughly enjoyed getting a feel for how the Bar, and more specifically the criminal justice system operates.

Megan Peters, Jenna Ireland, Katie Finn and Melissa Elliott acted as witnesses. The roles of Court Clerk and Court Usher were performed by Christopher Jardine and Matthew Armstrong, whilst the members of the jury were Kate Murphy, Aimee Gregson, Bethan Gillespie, Thomas Shannon and David McKeown.

The skilled youngsters competed against 16 other schools from the local area, working on a court case that had been written specially by a barrister.

They were supported through their many weeks of preparation and on the day itself by their teachers Miss Andrena McClelland and Miss Laura Carson and also by past Academy pupils Sev Kelley and Victoria Singer acting as local volunteer barristers who provided mentoring support throughout; advising on points of law, how best to present the case and court procedure.

The competition aims to expand participants’ understanding of the law, develop their skills of argument and reasoning and widen the knowledge pupils have of a career at the Bar. The 16 participating schools were divided into 4 leagues and the four league winners were Banbridge Academy, Our Lady and St Patrick’s College, Coleraine High School and Aquinas Grammar School. The finalists were Banbridge Academy and Coleraine High School.

The final case was judged by Mr Justice Bernard McCloskey, Her Honour Gemma Loughran and Mark Mulholland QC and Chair of the Bar Council.

The final was extremely close with Coleraine High School winning by the narrowest of margins. The Academy team was praised by the judges for their “communication skills, their diction, their engagement with the jury and for their grasp of the essentials with regards to the individual roles”. They were also praised for their “wealth of talent” in a year when the standard of the competition was extremely high.

This is a considerable achievement bearing in mind that this is only the school’s second year in the competition and that one of the Academy’s barristers in the final was Radhika Gupta, a year 12 pupil. Student Natasha Moffett was singled out for individual praise for her consistently excellent performances all day.

The competition is run by the Citizenship Foundation with the support and funding of the Bar Council of England and Wales, the Faculty of Advocates, the Bar Library of Northern Ireland, the Inns of Court and the Circuits.

Banbridge Academy’s Principal, Mr Raymond Pollock has expressed his delight at the team’s success, saying: “This is a tremendous opportunity for students to gain a deeper insight into the legal profession.

“The opportunity to work in such an impressive setting is particularly beneficial and the young people gain significantly from the support they receive from the commitment of practising barristers. By their involvement in this rigorous process pupils improve their team working skills and also their confidence in public speaking; valuable, transferable skills which stand them in good stead as they mature and develop.

“I commend the Citizenship Foundation warmly for their investment in the education of our young people.”