Students from six Hillingdon schools participated in the ‘human rights and mock trial day’, delivered by the Knowing Our Rights (KOR) project, in collaboration with the widening participation office at Brunel University London. The students participated in various interactive exercises throughout the day, from debating the Human Rights Act to participating in an exciting criminal mock trial.
The day began with the Dean of the College of Business, Arts and Social Sciences, Prof Thomas Betteridge, introducing the concept of human rights; a reference to the clash between divine and state law in Sophocle’s Antigone caught students’ attention. The director of the KOR project, Dr Dimitrios Giannoulopoulos, presented students with an overview of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights, explaining how these were perhaps living on borrowed time in the UK; Brexit had forced the government to temporarily postpone its plans for the repeal of the Human Rights Act.
The students were then split in two groups and were asked to debate for and against the Act. They began by identifying their rights such as the right to life, freedom of speech and the right to privacy. Students voiced their opinion on whether the Human Rights Act should be repealed. Both sides of the debate were passionate, but there was a consensus from all students in favour of the Human Rights Act. Not a single student in the workshop was in support of the Government’s plan to repeal the Act. They fervently advocated why the rights protected by the Act are integral for society and how the state may not be able to keep those rights protected sufficiently if the Human Rights Act were repealed. It is clear that the students are human rights enthusiasts, and their debating skills resonated throughout the day.
Next came the criminal mock trial, where the students were keen to take on the roles of judge, jury, advocates and witnesses. Brunel Law students first guided the school students on what examination in chief and cross examination would entail, while the ‘jury’ watched a video from a former mock trial and discussed the role with Law School students and academics. The mock trial gave the students a valuable insight on how the trial process works. Their enthusiasm and commitment to their roles made it a joyous experience for everyone. The mock cross-examination of witnesses was incredibly entertaining and the jury deliberations and verdict made clear that the students understood the practicalities of a trial. It was inspiring to see their confidence grow throughout the day and the conviction of their speeches no doubt shows their appetite to learn. Perhaps in the hopes of becoming a human rights defender one day….
One of the Yr12 student attending the workshop commented: the “Knowing Our Rights” workshop “inspired me to research further into human rights and has opened my eyes to such a vast and complex area of not just law, but society at large … On behalf of the students in our school, we would like to thank the Brunel students and staff that made the event so insightful and enriching”.
The day ended on a positive note and students keenly listened to the legal talk given by Bridget Lavin on careers in law. Each student was presented with a certificate and the knowledge they departed with will hopefully inspire them in their future endeavours.