I’ve Decided to Engage Online.

Given that it is winter, and that the crisis is not over yet, rather it is in full swing, I have decided to engage in my workshops online for the foreseeable future.

This was a decision I wanted to take before new year and I contacted my provider and made it clear that is what I was going to do. It will significantly reduce the risk to me.

I just hope that the online sessions are as good! Seriously though, not an easy decision to make, but nonetheless essential. I am also on the fed up side lately so working from home might help that. I completed my degree as a home based learning course which I found great.

When it comes to the development of working conditions, I believe students learning from home is up there as being something that they can do. Working or studying from home is essential in times like this. But, I don’t like the idea of people working from home who could otherwise work in person. Some areas like being a doctor… or lawyer, require face to face work for court cases and hospitals respectively. Although, a lot of lawyers are remote working anyway. My point is, utilise the work from home but do not overdo it.

How did you find the transition to home working? Do you enjoy it or are you simply in the office out of respect for old fashioned working values? A lot of people suggest that working from home creates laziness, and to a degree I agree with that, especially if one is sitting in their pajamas for a conference or in bed whilst on the laptop for work.

Criminal Conference

I have just completed my mock conference assessment today. I was nervous about how this would go, and what I would score. I had done my preparation but there is a significant element of flexibility required. The criminal conference is one form of assessment and something that is required to pass the course. It involves talking to your client before a court appearance for example.

In the type of conference I had today, a plea before venue and allocation hearing was scheduled to take place immediately after the meeting with my client. This means I need to establish the facts of the case, to confirm whether my client has satisfied the elements of the offences, whether they have a defence, how they would like to plead (after advising them on the strengths and weaknesses of their case) and choosing a court if pleading not guilty, and if they have a choice.

It sounds simple, but the mock assessment was 20 minutes. The real assessment will also be 20 minutes. This is not a lot of time. I did manage to get through all my points in time, but, I still missed things and could have done better. I can always do better. The conference was also recorded, which is great and conducive to learning.

At the core of a conference is the barrister client relationship and being able to act in the best interests of each client. This is a barristers core duty, and one which is subject to your duty to the court. Too much legalese? The core duties are not secrets of the state, although, they are probably not known by the majority of British citizens. Rest assured that barristers are independent and regulated by the Bar Standards Board and their chambers to an extent, you won’t find an incompetent barrister for the most part… yes, some barristers are bad, that is not usual.

A criminal case will be heard in the magistrates court initially. This is 99% of criminal cases. Only the most serious of offences will go straight to the crown court. The crown court has more sentencing powers, and as such, the process is strict, can take longer (getting a hearing date could take a while), is more formal with wigs and gowns, a legally educated judge and the most important part that defendants need to know, a jury!

12 lay people, from all walks of life, not legally educated, able to decide whether a defendant is guilty or not guilty. The topic of much debate. Without a jury what will the crown court become? It is the best system that England has in place, and is a lot fairer than other countries. EU countries are not subject to common law like England and Wales. Rather, they are utilising a system of Civil law, derived from Roman law, which codifies the law… get it? The codes cover everything (supposedly) and rather than using previous case law, will instead rely on these codes for the sentence. EU law was rather enjoyable, and learning about the complications of cross border consumer law was brain stunning. I feel relieved that I achieved a decent mark in my undergraduates studies on this module.

Back to the conference. As mentioned a defendant will initially appear before the magistrates court. A bench of 3 non legally educated people, who are usually case hardened having listened to a lot of similar cases, and therefore more likely to find you guilty and sentence you. They are volunteers, yes, you heard me correctly, the 3 people about to decide your fate are volunteers from the public. You do have an automatic right of appeal though, which is a bonus, you don’t have that in crown court. The bench of 3 could instead be replaced on the day of your appearance by a district judge. These sit alone and are legal experts. Why they don’t just use these all the time is beyond me, and probably would help too.

If the client has any previous convictions, my understanding is that this will be of detriment and if it is a similar offence, could result in a much harsher sentence. As for defences, they are available and are limited in how they can be applied. If someone is charged with an assault – common assault at law which involved physical contact – they can use a defence if they committed the offence as the result of acting in self defence. You may know this, but the burden of proof remains with the prosecution to prove that the amount of force used was unreasonable. The defending barrister will have to prove that the client acted in self defence, and if they do this successfully, that is a complete defence.

Other defences are available, and essentially they are either a lack of mens rea – the mental element of the offence, and actus reus – the physical element of the offence. Most disputes in cases will focus on the mental element, as to whether the defendant intended to do something. After intention there is a whole host of other reasons for the crime being committed, such as recklessness, negligence, mistake, duress, etc. The actus or act is much easier to prove than the mental element, but again, this is something I love about English law, that it provides a fair a due process.

‘It is called Magna Charta, not that it is great in quantity … but in respect of the great importance and weightinesse of the matter.’

Edward Coke

Would you take the advise of your barrister to plead guilty or not guilty? Do you know that you don’t have to give a plea? Are you a good person of good character with no previous convictions? Although lengthy quotes from magna carter are not used by barristers in conference, they no less have to engage with the client and establish the details of their case. Without the details, you might be incompetent.

Needless to say the rest, I was told that I was competent, along with the other student. This is good I guess. The opposite would be incompetent, which would be rather embarrassing… Now I need to prepare for the full assessment and try not to mess it up, preparation is key.

Check out my article – part 2 of 2

The first article was published last week. Now, they have decided to proceed, today, with publishing the second. They are relatively small compared to what I would write on my own site. They said they had to split into 2 because it was quite dense, I suppose they have to appeal to students who want a 2 minute read. You got it.

I was invited to write some articles for Simply Law and after accepting was informed that I could contribute as much as I liked. The plan was to publish 3 articles from October to December… So, not a lot really! It helps to boost your cv if you have published articles, and that is a big point gainer in my eyes. Any aspiring law student, lawyer, solicitor or barrister should be keen to get at least 1 article published. I have yet to submit anything to Legal Cheek, but intend to submit something this coming November. Next month. Legal Cheek is a harsh website in terms of comments, so anything that is published could be burned, but it will be seen by a lot of people too.

As mentioned previous, this is similar to my ‘rough cut guide to student productivity’ published 11 October ’21on my ‘journey into law’ page. I have blogged a few times with an emphasis on productivity, a little known article on my articles page called ‘Top tips to boost productivity’ was published way WAY back in March 2017!

Enjoy!

Check out my article – part 1 of 2

Please find my article below.

They decided to split it into 2 posts. I am fairly happy they reached out, although my contributions seem meager, they still provide great reading for law students

Simply Law is a great site for law students. The staff are welcoming and friendly.

Rough cut guide to student productivity

After moving swiftly from the cold dark embrace of an autumn night to the gushing waves of the particulars of claim and witness handling, came a soaked insight.

I am now going to share with you some tips that you could incorporate to increase your productivity. Or maybe, possibly, just to increase the ideas you already have about how to best study and achieve when you are studying law. This is for all law students at any level, and people, yes, from earth… unless you know of any other kind?

How am I finding the bar course? Honestly, it is extremely tolerable at the moment. The biggest time consumer is engaging with the required reading for the campus sessions. Other students have echoed this. I also find it hard to recall what I have read, I remember the gist and the topic and maybe the sections, but not specifics or exact words or phrases. Not yet at least.

But the sessions build into one another, so you go from pre action conduct all the way to civil litigation trial throughout the course (civil litigation course)… From my understanding. The same applies to criminal litigation. I am enjoying the course though, which is a bonus, and getting up 7am for campus days is a real draining thrill. Motivation comes from a combination of fear and desperation, trying all so hard not to miss anything in the reading for this expensive course. Not to mention class preparation and the need to behave cohesively with the cohort.

Motivation comes from a combination of fear and desperation

I reckon I could round up the 3 most important things I have learned so far on the course, and the 3 things which are helping me to stay on top of the work and finish drafting those documents for the deadlines… did I mention witness handling? Conferencing? One session of each and next week, more conferencing, but that is a ‘practical skill’ and practice we will.

  1. Training the brain to engage with the new routine

When I finished my degree I was both relieved and tired. Mentally exhausted at some points. But, satisfied that I had an expensive piece of paper which I could now flash to prospective employers should they so wish to see it. I also had mine laminated, come on the paper was thin!

The routine I had developed was considerably different to that on the bar course. Why? The bar course had a structure which involved few actual campus classes, 2 days a week to be precise and the rest of the time was prepping and consolidation of what we had learned in our skills workshops. This meant that I had to adapt, and quickly, because I have to leave the apartment at 7:45am on campus days to reach campus for roughly 8:30am, depending on if the trains are delayed…

Get up early. There is no way around this. You either get up early for campus days and arrive for 9am or you simply get marked absent, and if you don’t attend 80% or more classes then you fail the course. It would be a shame to fail because you were late, rather than not passing the assessments. Mentioning assessments, this is at masters level and unlike undergraduate, there is a HIGHER PASS MARK. 60% pass mark for all of the assessments. 11 total assessments, combining practical skills and MCQ (multiple choice question) exams. I won’t bore you with that though, at least until I have an idea of if I will fail or not (:P).

Not only is getting up early vital, but you need to train your brain to do it everyday, maybe skip on Sundays like I do. Sunday for me is essentially a rest day, although I work on Sundays the majority of the time. If you get up early, you build a routine, your brain adapts, and it gets easier. You will have more time to do the reading, and more opportunities to finish early and enjoy the evening. That is not me saying 7am everyday, you could wake up at 8am on your none campus days. It is down to you to build a morning routine which engages your senses and gets you pumped and ready for the slaughter… excuse me, the day! Be sure to eat breakfast, be sure to hydrate. Collect what you will use the night before and have it ready to get into when you begin to work.

Don’t train your brain to overwork either. If you spend all day, from 8am to 10pm working on something, including the reading and any practical activities or written submissions, then stop and re-evaluate that schedule. You are setting yourself up for a very boring study life, one where fatigue and lack of exercise could kill you. Not to mention, working 14 hour days doesn’t seem productive or efficient. Why does it take so long to read and get it done? Come on, I could read a 400 page book in a day, so you can do the reading in less than that! Make sure you aren’t glued to the desk and get up and walk or stretch, exercise and healthy, frequent eating is great to keep to fueled for all that awesome work you are going to produce.

Healthy habits, will lead to an adapted mindset. Unhealthy and unambitious yet ridiculous schedules can train you into poor study habits. Make it work!

2. Don’t be afraid of the dark

You’ve never studied law before, or you have just started the bar course, or the legal practice course, or you are doing something in a law firm and you have no clue what to do, despite the preparatory reading and revision and countless hours spent completing a draft or trying to perfect a piece of work.

You get some cruel, hurtful comments… “your work was not good enough” or “this is not quite right, try this.” These are comments of a highly helpful nature. Utilise those comments, integrate them into the work, go back and do it again with the revisions. Try harder, be better, no excuses. It’s easy to think you are not good enough because you made a minor mistake, or perhaps you were completely off on this occasion, however, you are good enough. You got this far, this is a big chance to LEARN! Learning is at the core of what you are doing, you didn’t know how to do it before and now, after some time reading and being taught, you have had a bash at it. Well done, you are not a failure based on some constructive criticism. Learn to take that on-board and learn to understand where you need to improve.

Every bit of advice and feedback given to me thus far, I have taken with me, and used to my advantage. I also accept that mistakes will be made, since the course has not long started. That doesn’t deter me, we all make mistakes, and it’s those mistakes that we all learn from. If you are afraid of feedback, you need to start getting used to it.

3. Have a life for goodness sake

Many students, especially full time students, feel as if they have nothing else they can do because all their time is “taken up by studying.” FALSE. There is 24 hours in each day. Last night, I didn’t fall asleep until gone 2am and I had to be up for 7am. I didn’t have a longer sleep because I knew that if I didn’t get up, I’d be late and be marked absent. I had enough time to sleep is my point. I made the most of the little sleep I had.

Because I had prepped and done the reading over the weekend I was not particularly concerned about being behind. In fact, preparing for class is my strength currently, but that may change as the course intensifies. From an intellectual standpoint, and I genuinely mean this, it is not the hardest thing you will ever do, trust me. Again my perception could change, we will see. How does this combine with having a life? Let me tell you…

Studying full time, regardless of the ‘level’ of the academic work, whether that school grades, college or university, or postgrad, is going to require a set amount of time for the work. I guarantee that most full time courses do not require 12 hours study 7 days a week. University courses including the bar course require around 35 hours a week realistically, possibly going up to 40.. Let’s work this out, so I can show you why you HAVE TIME for a social life and time to do things you want to do.

35 hours a week / 7 = 5 hours a day

That will be the recommended time or the time that the institution says is required on the course.

There is 24 hours x 7 days a week = 168 hours in a week

Assuming that you are awake for a portion and asleep for another portion.

Time management is what I am excellent at. Keep a diary if you need to. Keep a study schedule and adapt as required. Make sure you plan in advance and don’t have conflicting arrangements. If you feel that 168 hours a week excludes you from a social life when a full time course would require (estimating) 35 hours a week, then something is seriously wrong… so go get a coffee and biscuit and let’s sit down for a long chat… lasting approximately 35 minutes during which you have a panic attack and rush home in time to complete that essay for next Monday.

rush home in time to complete that essay for next Monday

It is all about welfare. Be healthy. Be happy. Be free. Have fun and don’t give up on things you enjoy, otherwise your mental health could decline and depression could set in, and that’s is not good for productivity at all. If you have hobbies, keep up with them. I enjoy playing Xbox games, being on the bar course doesn’t exclude me from playing at 8pm at night when I have finished my work for the day. Nor does the thought of being too busy in any way stop me from taking on new opportunities, provided that they don’t clash with my schedule.

So, there you have it. 3 sections, each of which will provide you with a different perspective of being a law student. Bar course students do have a harder time, but when I hear students complaining they have no time or joke that the course is killing them 4 weeks in, then I am sorry but the problem is coming from the inside, not the outside. Unless a meteor happened to have crashed into your goat barn the evening before that opinion was due in. Haha?

Stay safe, happy lawyering!

Criminal advocacy 101

Journey into law.

The continuing quest to enter the profession of the noble and historic barrister. I’ve been blessed to be able to sit in this warm apartment with my heating. I am blessed to be able to buy ready made meals, drinks and ‘accessories’ on will. Not everyone has those blessings or opportunities. A significant population of the world does not have access to clean water, nor do they get 3 meals a day… they may go hungry for days because they can’t afford food or there simply isn’t any available. Many live in unsanitary conditions and have to live in shacks. They are at the knife point of various drug and trafficking gangs and a lot will be killed before they reach their 20th birthday.

When you conjure up an image of justice in your mind, do you automatically picture a 1st world country court? Perhaps you envision a revolution, a crown court trial, a mother receiving restitution for the wrongly gained, or a child being reunited with their lost parents. Subjective, arguably, is the perception of justice. Not so fast, you see there is a definition and it goes like this ( according to – https://www.thefreedictionary.com/justice):

1) The quality of being just; fairness: in the interest of justice, we should treat everyone the same

2.a.) The principle of moral rightness; decency. b) Conformity to moral rightness in action or attitude; righteousness: argues for the justice of his cause.

3.a) The attainment of what is just, especially that which is fair, moral, right, merited, or in accordance with law: my client has not received justice in this hearing.

So we seek to maintain a just, fair society which is morally correct and any breach of that is to treat people differently and to breach the law. Of course, nowadays treating people differently has indeed become a criminal offence in some cases. You couldn’t now in the 21st century get away with homophobic or racist remarks. But, merely 50 years ago and indeed not even that long, people were saying these things more often. I personally don’t think there has been much of a change, but there is the fear now that one is breaching the law if they were to make such a ‘remark.’ Civilised society has become a bubble wrapped and tightly controlled arena, with the big cats with the money influencing huge policy makers and government. Private investment into new technologies and advertising has seen the general population brainwashed by morality propaganda. I’m not justifying those racist or homophobic remarks, or anything else that would breach protected characteristics according to the Equality Act 2010. Some of those include age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership and pregnancy or maternity. But, rather, I am saying that morality doesn’t need to be enforced, it is learned and one can choose to obey or not to obey. The latter will see you (if caught) being persecuted by the state or private corporation. The former will also do the same, rendering you a slave to the idea that somehow those individuals are ‘targeted’ and ‘victims.’ If you cry wolf that doesn’t mean you care what happens to the victims.

Trying to control what people think and telling them how to behave is a sure fire way to provoke even the most docile of humans. Why? Because we have autonomy and freedom of thought. You can tell a group not to discuss the elephant in the room, but at the end of the day, it’s there and they will discuss it. Criminal justice has been spiraling downwards for a number of years. Legal aid cuts, fewer pupillage spaces and a general lack of money at the bar drives people away from this extremely tiring job. Criminal barristers spend more time working than they are paid for. If society wants a just and accepting place for all, then instead of stoking the fires of inequality, hatred and fear, instead focus on improving the structure already in place and provide Just and moral outcomes within the criminal justice system, adjust the propaganda machine accordingly. We don’t want people in prison based on their opinions of society, we want people to be able to live freely and without fear.

Thanks for reading. Namaste and peace be with you.

Bar Course Books arrive

Unfortunately I was feeling unwell last week and on Sunday went to an accident and emergency department on advice of the phone service. After many hours of waiting I was seen and admitted, put on some IV antibiotics and fluids. By 12am I was fed up and wanted to go home. By 3am I told them I had had enough of waiting and wanted to take oral antibiotics at home. Anyway, sent home on oral so thankfully recovering in my own space.

It really put a dent in my course start as I was thinking to myself, ‘If I’m not well enough I might miss my start dates.’ I’ll push through, I have my last 2 doses today and tomorrow so am healed almost.

And I am excited to start the course. After receiving a most dire response to my query regarding Blackstones Criminal law. I had asked why the book was not available to order along with the others, along with the likes of the daunting White Book or evidence and drafting… I was told that it isn’t available until October. Oh no! That is when a new version is released and I guess we have access via our university library anyway so one doesn’t miss out .

Today, early and by special UPS delivery, handled with modest care were the books that will consume me over the next 9 months alongside the course materials.

  • Course materials – civil skills, civil litigation, criminal skills, criminal litigation
  • The Jackson ADR Handbook
  • Evidence
  • Drafting
  • Remedies
  • Professional Ethics
  • Civil Procedure Volume 1 & Civil Procedure Volume 2 (The White Book)
  • Blackstones Criminal Law (Not Available in physical copy until October.)

It was all a little daunting before I even enrolled on the course. The doubt and unease kept creeping in after I passed the bar course aptitude test. Even then, I had a false sense of confidence. In reality I need to do way, way more mooting – something that I will no doubt post about in the future – in order to improve my speaking and legal knowledge. When I accepted my full place by way of completing the conditions, and by paying the deposits required.

Of course, this is me, I am strong and I am not scared like a little cat in the alleyway. No. The people scaring students into believing they are embarking on a soul quest are wrong. It’s a course and yes no doubt difficult, but that doesn’t mean we should be drilling students with a negative image. Let’s keep it positive and real yeah?

The reality according to the Bar Standards Board – the authority regulating barristers – is that the statistics page for pupillage shows that in 2019/20 404 pupils commenced pupillage in their first six.

(https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/news-publications/research-and-statistics/statistics-about-the-bar/pupillage.html)

Since the 1990’s, the number of pupils actually succeeding in securing pupillage has fallen. This is in part because in 2003 it became a requirement to fund or pay for a students pupillage. It also could be because there are considerably less pupillages over the last 20 years, particularly over the period of 2020/21.

“3,301 bar hopefuls compete for 246 pupillages” in 2021 according to the Legal Cheek article, Pupil Barrister numbers down nearly a third in 30 years.

It’s worth noting this is a low number of pupillages. Many chambers or sets have openly admitted culling pupillage during the crisis due to the economic uncertainty.

That’s the truth and the reality. A little unfair? Possibly.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and look forward to many more to come.

The Coroners Court – the inquisition

Let me take you on a journey. It’s a warm and sunny day in middle England. Surely as the crows fly and the cars rumble along will there be an inquest at hand. Welcome, to the coroners court!

Surely as the crows fly and the cars rumble along will there be an inquest at hand.

me

The best experience a law student can gain in their summer period or time off is to either undertake some form of work experience within a firm or chambers or to visit the courts themselves. Many people are probably under the assumption that crown and magistrates courts are the only courts in the land. This is not the case; there are many courts, including the coroners court, the high court, the royal courts of justice, the supreme court! England didn’t begin to create the common law system for one bloody courthouse. Many centuries ago now, the courts would travel around England and impose the law as they arrived, not very effective at blanket law enforcement.

So, the coroners court, pour yourself some whiskey for the hours long inquisition into the death of an individual. Very much an individual. There is a presiding man or woman – I have no idea what there title or qualifications are. All rise, so I assume a judge of some variety, Apparently I was in luck as the woman overseeing todays case was the ‘top’ dog, or in other words, the boss of everyone else who works there apparently. Friendly staff and a much more welcoming atmosphere than the crown court. For one, there is no body scanner or “empty your pockets!” You are free to enter and the guy at the desk was apparently serving an apprenticeship – a great choice of area – and he was kind enough to give me the details of the court and the upcoming inquisition.

An inquest is the best to see and witness, and I enjoyed observing. The court was big and fresh, lots of breathable space. The session also lasted from 2:30pmto 5pm… two and a half hours! There was a brief 15 minute break around 4:15pm. Inside, in front of the judge is the clerk, and usually the room would be full but due to the current situation the doctor was communicating with the court with microsoft teams. It’s different to criminal proceedings, the family have access to a microphone and the overseer is much friendlier and more empathetic. I am interested in the work of coroners and the court process, but sadly I don’t know what law applies to these inquests, so that is something I’d like to learn more about.

The case today concerned the death of a family member who the family argued was released from hospital incorrectly as they were considerably ill, they later died at home after being discharged. The findings of the court was that the junior doctor had failed in their duty, and so did the accident and emergency department. I don’t really know what the family get out of it, as there was no mention of monetary compensation at the conclusion. There was mention of contacting the department for health and educating the juniors to avoid future recurrences. I’ll be honest, the hospital in question has a long list of questionable deaths that have previously been to the coroners court, and I myself have witnessed the dire performance and negligence within its walls. It’s the reason I refuse to be treated or seen there anymore.

I’ll be honest, the hospital in question has a long history of questionable deaths that have previously been to the coroners court, and I myself have witnessed the dire performance and negligence within its walls. It’s the reason I refuse to be treated or seen there anymore.

me

A somewhat emotional hearing, an inquest with family that have recently lost a mum, wife, grandmother etc, and who are grieving. Empathy and understanding go a long way and this is the reason the law needs to maintain high ethical and moral standard. Without it, we’d have a court system run by evil prejudice hylics! Maybe the conclusion was one that the family wanted. Throughout, even I could assess that it was the hospital and doctors failings that led to the death, and the court rightly found the same. I would have been pretty angry if it hadn’t. To deny the evidence and to avoid blaming those who are culpable is not the milkshake society I want to live in. Have courage to do justice.

It would be nice to return for a pre-inquest hearing – not sure if that’s the name – when all the press turn up to get the gossip. Why do I want to be there at the same time as the press? Because during my court visits I have been mistaken for the press, firstly by a barrister, secondly by the court usher and thirdly the ‘inmate security officers.’

I will add this, that I managed to see a brief amount of a case in the magistrates before heading to the coroners. The defendant was unrepresented. Honestly, I think considering they wanted counsel for a plea in mitigation, give me the papers and I’ll do it. But, I’m not qualified yet and I don’t fancy lying to assist the unassisted. Luckily, the magistrates postponed the sentence so he could discuss the issue with the duty solicitor. There is also 1 court open in the entire magistrates court building, an absolute joke. If you’ve followed the news, you’ll see that the backlog of cases in England is substantial and they have ‘nightingale courts’ open. Government take my advice, society has gone back to normal, nobody is concerned about the pandemic anymore. Open the courts and let all of its facilities be used… one courtroom a day means the running costs of the entire building.

Have a lovely evening all and may peace be with you!

Magistrates Court Visit: The Mage’s Lair

I was off out to the Greater Manchester area, to the town of Stockport. The picture above is from Bing images, but it is of Stockport magistrates court. The room made me feel as if I were in a Star Wars spaceship. The white tiles walls, with barely anything else, was alien! I was also the only one in the public gallery, again. Someone has to keep an eye on the system.

Dubbed the wild west of the criminal justice system, the magistrates court is the first point of call for the majority of criminal cases. The more serious offences, called indictable offences like robbery, serious assault, rape or murder can only be heard by a crown court.

Dubbed the wild west of the criminal justice system, the magistrates court is the first point of call for the majority of criminal cases.

Let’s dig into the differences and similarities between the Magistrates and Crown court.

First, and most notable, is that the bench consists of 3 magistrates. In front is a clerk or legal advisor, they are the ones who are most likely to have legal education and training, as the magistrates are essentially ‘uneducated in law.’ Next we have both the defence and prosecution lawyers, they are on their own table in front of both the clerk and magistrates, facing the bench. Today, the defendant was to the right inside a glass shielded box, the place they have to stand during the hearing.

The jury box was also empty today, as the hearings I entered were pleading hearings – not sure if that’s the right name! Oh well! Behind the lawyers or prosecution and defence counsel sits the public, that is where I was sat, and a gold rail was between me and the rest of the court room.

Crown courts generally have the same sort of feel and layout, although, the bench will consist of an actual legal judge. Sometimes a magistrates will host a district judge, and today, surprisingly, the court had a crown court operating within its walls. Barristers represent and prosecute in the crown court, where they wear their court regalia of black cloak and white wigs.

The dress code in the crown court is to be admired, because when you look at the suits being worn in the magistrates court, they do not look as serious or impressive. The usher was the only one wearing a black cloak. I call it the Voldemort cloak as it reminds me of the sort of clothes he wore in Philosopher stone. I was advised to come back in the mornings and on trial day, so I am going to head back tomorrow morning to try and see some. I don’t think I’ll post about that though.

An American flag displayed, although the layout is almost the same in the UK.
Westminster Magistrates Court

I saw 2 hearings, both relating to drink and drug driving. The first pleaded not guilty to drug driving and the second pleaded guilty to drink driving. I know from past experience that driving offences take up the majority of magistrates court cases. The defendant pleading not guilty will go onto a trial, where a jury will be present.

The defendant pleading guilty was to be sentenced straight away, although, in this hearing, defence cousel requested further assessments of the defendant’s mental health and similar, and therefore it was postponed or adjourned.

Check out the useful video below on the magistrates court :

Thanks for reading. Have you ever been in one of these court rooms?

University Tour & Crown Court Visit

Hi. I’ve had a fairly active day compared to the usual slob and yawn.

I visited the University of Law campus for a tour. After being allowed to enter the modern building, I was literally on my way up in the elevator to the 4th floor.

The campus is very modern, clean and the available staff were friendly, as expected as prospective students are forking out around £15,000 for the bar course with masters. So, for that price I expect an escort on arrival and an oriental breakfast. Not this time I’m afraid (take note university).

The university comprises small classrooms and lecture theatres, boasting pro bono facilities, mock trials and all the advocacy training a potential barrister may need. The university also teaches business courses along with the LLB and GDL.

Overall the tour was decent. It lasted an hour from 10am to 11am. I would have liked to see some more bar course students and teaching staff, but of course, only a skeleton crew sufficed… if they could blame global warming for the pandemic they would. (I think they have).

Next I was on a journey to a public building in a public place supposedly conducting public hearings. I phoned the crown court yesterday to check that the public can now observe. On arrival, as with everything, I had to use the voice of reason and explain the previous days conversation and government guidance regarding court visits. I was ‘allowed’ on ‘this’ day. I find that extremely laughable, that a public court that has no right to refuse the public access to observe court, can ‘choose’ to let me in. You know, it isn’t the lawyers spouting this nonsense, it’s the other ‘security’ and ‘staff.’

One might think I had walked into an occult meeting, all these masked fellows and blokes and women wearing gowns and wigs and acting suspicious. No, I was under suspicion, in fact, I was the only member of the public there. I am not kidding, I saw no other member of the public. I even had to be escorted around by a covid marshal, although he was rather friendly and helped me find a court I could enter.

I ended up in the most magnificent of court rooms, ancient, elite wooden beams echoing the cries of the past, black and white ceilings, the old smell of dusty furniture and age. I was having a huge anxiety attack.

It happens

Don’t forget the massive lights, more like chandeliers, six of them. I had the patience to watch a few cases or trials. I was not in luck as this courtroom was predominantly dealing with sentencing. I was the only member of the public in the public gallery. I felt as if this was a huge stab in the back of justice. Why are the public seats empty? Five or so rows of red velvet lined benches, easy to keep people separated. But no. The public need to be in court to witness the proceedings to ensure a fair process, without this, these are essentially private hearings, conducted under the head of state and with potential to miscarry justice.

I didn’t witness anything bad or out of line. In fact a lovely barrister came and chatted to me for while before the hearing. I felt more at ease and assured after this. Partly because I was going into the same room (which I had waited for quite some time to do – the reluctance of the staff to let me in court rooms was reaching levels of delusions) and partly because she was giving me information about the case which I found great and of use for when the defendant entered the dock for sentencing.

I heard 2 sentencing hearings, if that is the official name. I enjoyed the experience. It is quite daunting to observe in such a big and strange room, with such old décor and manners, a sort of 17th century experience. The visit didn’t come without some emotions of course. Aside from being nervous, I was genuinely sorry for both the defendants. Seeing people get sent to prison is not a nice thing, and must be even harder to experience. I didn’t expect to feel this way and that is why I am writing about it. Practice trials, mooting and mock trials can only come so close to the real experience.

I was off out of court by 1pm, time to head back to Manchester Piccadilly train station and head home.

I hope this has been of interest to you all. Stay safe.