The College’s Bar Mock Trial team of barristers-in-training headed for London’s Royal Courts of Justice on Saturday for the national final of the competition which saw them take the regional crown earlier in the year.

On a shortlist of just 24 finalist schools and colleges from across the UK, our team of Law students donned wigs and gowns to set about prosecuting and defending fictional cases but with authentic rules and regulations in the most grand and imposing of real life settings.

“It’s the Royal Courts of Justice, so there were plenty of butterflies in the stomach before you got up, but after giving your opening speech and starting the cross examinations, you start to relax into it and find it more fun than nerve-wracking.”

Alex Earley, first year

Organised by the Citizenship Foundation, and now in its 26th year, the Bar Mock Trial has seen on 25,000 young people participate throughout its tenure.

Proceedings were overseen by real judges, including Sir Brian Leveson of the phone-hacking scandal Leveson Inquiry fame, and several other top level legal professionals. TV favourite and star of the latest series of Strictly Come Dancing, Judge Rob Rinder, was also in attendance.

Second year Law student, Melissa Andrews, was a member of the party who headed to the capital on Friday night, ready for the competition on Saturday.

Melissa’s role was to act as a barrister for the defence against the oppositions from Hazelwood College in Northern Ireland, who were, in turn, prosecuting.

Melissa said: “It was extremely challenging but really enjoyable – just a great experience. As the defence barrister, I had to give the opening speech and then the cross examinations, which was the hardest part but also the most fun. You had to think on your feet a lot because you don’t know what the opposition team are going to say.

“Our team also had prosecution barristers and we’d all been practicing together, but at the competition, you’re doing it separately against people that you’ve never met. You’ve got to put your questions across in a way that gets the information out of the witness that you want, so it’s really tough, but that’s what made it so enjoyable.”

Melissa, who joined the team as a barrister just a few weeks ago when the other students had been working on it for the past several months, continued: “I thought I’d messed up my cross examination, but the judge said that she really liked it in her feedback, and liked the trap that I’d set with my questioning, so that was really pleasing!”

Although the team didn’t emerge victorious on this occasion, Melissa explained that just taking part was an amazing experience and that it would help all the students with their Law studies at College too.

She said: “It was a team effort and everyone’s hard work really showed. Alex (Earley) was amazing. He actually helped me with my speech and he’s such a natural. When he stands up and talks, you could actually think he’s a real barrister.”

First year, Alex Earley, who was defending in his case against Ketheven & Grantham Girls’ School in Nottingham, said: “I really enjoyed it. The competition was really tough and the witnesses were difficult to cross examine, but I thought we did really well.”

Speaking about the grandiose settings for their performances, he continued: “It’s the Royal Courts of Justice, so there were plenty of butterflies in the stomach before you got up, but after giving your opening speech and starting the cross examinations, you start to relax into it and find it more fun than nerve-wracking.”

The Royal Courts of Justice

Giving special mention to Elysium Law barrister, Richard Grey, who spent time with the College’s team and gave regular mentoring sessions to the students, Alex said: “Rick was brilliant and helped us so much. We felt really prepared for the whole competition and we’re all extremely grateful that he gave up his time to make us the best team we could be. We all worked to the best of our ability and I don’t think we could have asked for a better performance.”