Tuesday 24th April 2012 saw Durham University’s first ever Mock Trial, organised by Hatfield College at the two hundred year-old Durham Crown Court.
The case involved a local milkman, Christopher King, accused of robbing four hundred pounds in cash from a Hexham Lloyds bank, and threatening to shoot with a metal object concealed under a plastic bag.
The defendant, jury, advocates, witnesses and clerks were all students and members of Hatfield College, whilst the role of judge was taken on by His Honour Judge Prince of the Durham Court.
The simplicity of the case enabled spectators to relate to it with ease, and the participants made a clear effort not to overdo the legal jargon.
One attendee commented, “I found the story very interesting. The turnout was high and I think most of the public gallery were hugely impressed with all the partakers’ performances.”
Both the prosecutors and the defence spoke with confidence and eloquence, questioning the witnesses on the smallest of details of their statements. The efficient nature of the proceedings, as well as the use of a real courtroom gave an authentic and convincing feel to the trial.
Following speeches and much questioning, the jury was reminded of the necessity to be absolutely certain of identifying Mr King as the thief before conviction, and explained the general procedure for prosecution and sentencing.
All those attending were later invited to a formal dinner in Hatfield’s dining hall, after which the jury announced they found the defendant not guilty. Judge Prince congratulated the participants on their performance and presented them with a memorial drawing of the courtroom for their efforts.
Event organiser Christopher Wood speaking to Palatinate afterwards said, “I believe it was a huge success. It not only united the college, but provided a platform for its members to display their talents, abilities and the diversity of Hatfield.”
Wood also commented that “The support and guidance given by the Barristers at Old Court Chambers must be acknowledged” and that “There are plans for Hatfield to hold another Mock Trial in 2013.”