Mind the Justice Gap Project’s Mossbourne Academy Day!

Mind the Justice Gap‘ is our joint Public Legal Education project in partnership with the Justice Gap, the University College London’s Centre for Access to Justice and the Hackney Council of Voluntary Services.  The project is aimed at young people and is to help explain their legal rights and demystify the law.  Mind the JusticeGap will be an online advice guide about the law aimed at young people informed directly by the experience of young people in schools and colleges in the borough.

On Wednesday 21st November 2012, as part of the project’s objectives to ensure that the guide will be fully informed by the views of young people from Hackney, we visited local school Mossbourne Academy to participate in a special assembly for its Year 10 students.

Jon Robins, our patron and editor of the Justice Gap website (pictured above), introduced the session alongside HCLC’s interim development officer Miranda Grell.  Jon and Miranda told the pupils about the aims of the project and said we would be seeking their views and opinions.

Miranda then outlined the structure of the assembly, which would firstly consist of a special ‘clickers’ exercise led by students from the University College London (UCL), then a special interactive sketch and information session on ‘stop and search‘ led by the Hackney Council of Voluntary Services.  The assembly would end with a mock trial with two opposing barristers seeking to obtain/deny bail for a suspected offender.  The pupils would be the judges and vote on the outcome.

UCL student Jennie Rawlings (pictured above) opened the ‘clickers’ section of the assembly with warm-up questions (such as the one above) before asking the Mossbourne pupils more detailed questions about their opinions on the law.

It was great to see that over half of  the pupils felt that lawyers can “make a difference”.

Similarly their knowledge on meatier more legal topics such as the one shown on the slide above was fantastic.

The majority of pupils guess correctly that only 1-5% of judges practising in England and Wales come from a Black or Minority Ethnic background (3%).  When asked how they felt about this statistic, many of the Mossbourne pupils say they were not particularly surprised….

After the UCL ‘clickers’ exercise, it was over to members of the Hackney Council of Voluntary Services (HCVS) ‘Police Stop and Search Monitoring Group’, which works with young people and police in Hackney to influence the local police and make recommendations on improving stop and search policy in the borough.

After entering the auditorium in a dramatic sketch (pictured above) where members of the Stop and Search Monitoring group acted out a “bad” stop and search – officers using unreasonable force and rude language to the teenagers –  HCVS’ Youth Programmes Officer Deji Adeoshun (pictured below right) then asked the Mossbourne pupils for their thoughts and opinions of what they had witnessed.

What did they think was the correct way for the police to stop and search teenagers?  What should have been done differently?  Had any of them been stopped and searched?  How had they reacted?

Deji then talked the pupils through the points on the slide pictured above and took questions and comments from them on how to deal with being stopped and searched in the future.

Jacqueline Kinghan, UCL’s  Director for the Centre for Access to Justice (pictured above centre), then introduced the mock trial on bail with UCL students Sam and Anthea (pictured above behind Jacqui) acting for the prosecution and defence, respectively.  Jacqui explained the process of bail before askeing the Mossbourne pupils to play the judge who would decide whether or not bail would be granted that day.

As Sam and Anthea made their submissions, you could really feel the concentration of the pupils who then overwhelmingly decided to grant the defendant bail.

We were delighted that Lord Willy Bach (who had just visited Hackney Community Law Centre with Jon Robins to meet HCLC staff and volunteers) was in the audience to offer his view on the bail application made in the mock trial.  As a former criminal defence barrister with a wealth of legal experience, Lord Bach informed the pupils that he would not have granted bail had he been the judge because of the “seriousness of the offence”.  It was wonderful to have have Lord Bach participate in this way and use his knowledge of the English criminal justice system to help inform our Public Legal Education project.

After the formal assembly had concluded, Jon Robins then conducted some informal vox pop interviews with a few of the Year 10 Mossbourne pupils to gain even further insight into their views, experiences and opinions of the law.

*We are extremely grateful to Caroline Neil, Mossbourne Academy’s Head of Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education (PSHCE) (pictured above second from right with Jon Robins, HCLC’s Interim Development Officer Miranda Grell and HCLC Manager Sean Canning) for inviting the ‘Mind the Justice Gap‘ project to participate in Mossbourne Academy’s special law and criminal justice day*.

*We are also extremely grateful for the participation of  Jacqueline Kinghan and the UCL students for the brilliant clickers session and mock bail trial:

Jennie Rawlings
Sam Frank 
Anthea Brookes
Steff Bell
Anna Börger
Caspar Bartscherer
Tammy Lai
Melissa Elsworth
Katerina Capras*

*A very special thanks also goes to Lord Bach, Deji Adeoshun and members of the HCVS police stop and search monitoring group (all pictured above) for their participation and superb sketch on stop and search*.

*Please read Jon Robin’s article in The Guardian about the Mossbourne Academy day HERE and please don’t hesitate to get in touch by emailing miranda@hclc.org uk if you would like to know more about the ‘Mind the Justice Gap‘ project*.