21st November 2012
Twelve Sixth Formers, made up of proto-lawyers, politicians, criminologists, dentists, medics, historians and every possible aspirational career in between, had an action-packed day visiting the United Kingdom Supreme Court and the Palace of Westminster - via an unexpected detour into the wood panelled private office in Portcullis House of the larger-than-life MP for Mid Sussex, The Rt Hon Nicholas Soames, grandson of Sir Winston Churchill.
On arrival at the impressive neo-gothic building which now houses the new Supreme Court, we passed through the high security checks and made our way immediately to Court 1 to secure our places to watch what we had been told was a case that would attract a lot of interest. As seven (of the twelve) Justices of the Supreme Court entered, everyone remembered the etiquette: standing on the call of "All rise!" as the seven judges made their way to their particular seat in the horseshoe arrangement of the Bench, waiting for them to bow to us and then returning the compliment before finding our seats again. The command of complete silence, where one could literally hear a pin drop - no coughing, no shuffling, no low level chat -was both impressive, as it is so unusual, and majestic.
Different Judges took the lead to deliver the judgement of the Court in three earlier appeals with precision and clarity - so much so that every single person in court understood exactly what the issue had been about - and, most importantly, with utmost fairness. "I would advise everyone to go on this visit, no matter their interests or area of study" Jade Hunt
The gravity of the work undertaken by the Supreme Court was immediately apparent as the judgements ranged from dismissing the appeal of an infamous terror suspect against refusal of his application for asylum, to holding that it was fair, just and reasonable to hold an employer vicariously liable for the sexual abuse perpetrated by its employees on young children in their care (an extremely "hot topic") - all of which made a lasting impression on the St Catherine's students.
Following on from the judgements, we were then lucky enough to observe the start of the fascinating appeal in the case of O'Brien v The Ministry of Justice. I do not think I was alone in noticing how the only female Supreme Court Justice, Lady Hale, was in complete and utter control of the proceedings and how - always of course maintaining the utmost courtesy and respect - she was able to convey to everyone listening and watching that the unfortunate QC ("Queen's Counsel") acting for the Respondent was, in her view, not really up to the mark as far as legal arguments that he was placing before the Court were concerned.
To say that the poor man was getting a bit of a savaging from Lady Justice Hale is probably overstating it, but I do not think that I was alone in cringing as she fired off volley after volley of damning questions that put him on the spot and, on occasion reduced him to an embarrassed, stuttering, apologetic schoolboy! We only saw the first half hour of the mauling and the chronology of proceedings indicated that he had been allotted a three hour slot for his arguments. One cannot imagine the state he must have been in by the end!
Unfortunately we then had to move on to the next part of our experience, which was the talk about the Supreme Court. The students , by now seated in Court 3, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, surrounded by all the flags of the Commonwealth, were intrigued by the Education Officer Peter Jarrold as he recounted the history of the House of Lords and, more recently, the Supreme Court.
After the Supreme Court, we rushed over to Portcullis House to meet the Rt Honourable Nicholas Soames, MP for Mid Sussex in his extraordinarily small (and cluttered!) office. He had quite a number of choice words in answer to the question whether he thought Nadine Dorries was right to go on "I'M A CELEBRITY. Get Me Out Of Here!" - none of which are printable here! When I told the girls later that they had just shaken hands with the grandson of Winston Churchill, I think some of them thought I was pulling their leg! This was certainly a glimpse of life as an MP at the coal face which we were extremely fortunate to get. "The whole day was extremely informative and exciting and opened my eyes to the world of Law; also meeting and speaking to Sir Winston Churchill's grandson, The Rt Hon Nicholas Soames MP, was an unexpected surprise!" Aneet Gill
In the afternoon we joined a number of other schools in a Panel discussion with three MPs from different Parties and one Member of the House of Lords, Lord Tyler, where there were some very lively debates on such diverse topics as whether the voting age should be reduced to 16 , whether there should be new legislation setting out a mechanism to recall MPs (perhaps particularly relevant since the "I'm a Celebrity" affair!) and whether there should be reform of the House of Lords to create an elected Second Chamber.
After this, we went through the underground passage to the Palace of Westminster where we caught up once more with Lord Tyler (who had rushed over quickly too), this time taking part in a rather soporific debate in the House of Lords. After this we climbed the many stairs up to the public gallery in the House of Commons and observed a much livelier affair.
All in all, it was a terrifically eye-opening experience for everyone concerned - lawyer and non-lawyer alike. (I suspect there might even be a couple of converts over to the "Legal Dark Side"!) "The visit has given me more inspiration to pursue my interest in Law and Politics" Rushnay Sikander
I know that I was not alone in coming away from the day with a true sense not only of awe because of the sheer majesty of the buildings, their architectural grandeur and significance and their beautiful interiors, but with a genuine sense of pride in our national heritage and the unique and special traditions that we uphold so powerfully in this country. "It was a fascinating experience, in fact, the opportunity of a lifetime! I felt extremely privileged to have visited the highest court in the land to watch a real life case" Emmeline Wear
Mrs J Bailey
Head of Law, Director of Gifted and Talented Learning and Provision
A Level Law: Visit to The Old Bailey
The Stephen Lawrence Trial
On Thursday 1st December Ashni Parmar, Marianne Huck and Hattie Bernstein Dale visited the Central Criminal Court, more often referred to as the Old Bailey, as part of their AS Law studies. This was no ordinary visit as Mrs Bailey, having pulled numerous strings, had managed to arrange for her three students to be treated as her"pupils" (that is, trainee barristers) for the day. This meant that the girls were allowed special access to the body of the Court and the courtrooms, rubbing shoulders with all the advocates, rather than being restricted to the public gallery.
Once through the tight security at the entrance of the Bailey - there had been a tricky moment where the girls were "detained" by a burly, armed police officer whilst their precise details were checked! - they were whisked up to the Female Advocates Robing Room to experience what it would be like if they were at the Bailey with their brief and due to appear in court that morning!
As luck would have it, there were two murders being tried before the two most senior judges at the Bailey – the Recorder of London and the Common Sergeant and, as Mrs Bailey knew the barristers involved in both cases, she quickly arranged for her "pupils" to go and sit in court.
The first murder was an allegation against a father whose baby son had died in suspicious circumstances. At the post mortem examination, the child had been found to have a human bite mark on his cheek. The girls were able to watch the cross examination of the Forensic Orthodontologist by a female "QC" (Queen's Counsel) whose task it was to suggest to the witness, in front of the Jury, that the bite mark could have been caused by over exuberant "play-kissing" by her client, the child's father. It was fascinating for the girls to see an experienced advocate (and a woman to boot!) in action on her feet!
The second case was a drive-by shooting, hinging on identification and, when the girls went in, the Crown was painstakingly taking the jury through the forensic examination of every piece of evidence which allegedly linked the defendants to the killing. Again, the girls were exposed to skilful advocacy at the highest level.
However, the highlight of the experience had to be when the girls were permitted to go into the Stephen Lawrence trial before Mr Justice Treacy – a so called "Red" Judge. Inside, they sat feet away from the Lawrence family and listened as Defence Counsel attempted to establish with the Forensic Scientist that, due to the failure to follow best practice when different pieces of clothing were examined, contamination of the clothing could not be ruled out. They witnessed the crucial part of the case – which made headlines in all the newspapers and the Ten o'clock BBC News that evening. Whatever the final outcome of this extraordinary trial might be, the three lucky law students from St Catherine's will be in the privileged position of being able to say that they were there and actually witnessed the crucial episode in a trial which is likely to have an enormous impact on the criminal justice system of this country.
BBC News - Results of the Case
Mrs J Bailey
Click here to view details about our A Level Course.
Tales from the Bailey enthrall Siena Society audience
Before a packed audience, St Catherine's very own English teacher and Head of Law, Jane Bailey delivered a highly colourful, entertaining and informative lecture giving the history behind how and why she became a barrister as well as describing some past cases to highlight some of the unique characteristics inherent in a life at the criminal bar.
Mrs Bailey began by likening the law to teaching in that it is very much a vocation; that the rewards as such are intrinsic to the work itself (plus the odd Aston Martin...). She herself qualified as a lawyer and joined the Bar whilst the whole profession was gripped by blatant sex discrimination. As a pupil in her first chambers we heard how she was treated by the clerk with blatant disrespect, being referred to as 'Sir' in a clear attempt to belittle and demoralize her. But as we learnt later, working amid such chauvinism gave Jane Bailey a resilience which proved invaluable when doing battle in the Crown Court cross-examining various police officers.
The beginning of her career seemed to be spent dealing with a variety of pretty sordid sex offence cases before she moved to the Essex Street set of chambers. Here Mrs Bailey worked on more white-collar crime cases, including the Maxwell brothers pension fraud case as well cases involving malpractice by the medical profession.
Many of us were curious to know 'How can you represent someone you know is guilty?' and fortunately Jane Bailey had already prepared an answer to this question. 'As a barrister your job is to defend the accused however suspicious you may be; you do not 'know' the accused is guilty unless he tells you, in which case a barrister should not represent them. It is the job of the jury to decide on the guilt or innocence of an accused, not the barristers or Judge.'
Many of those present at Jane Bailey's lecture were students, from St Catherine's and other schools too; you cannot help but feel that many of them will now be considering a career at the Bar.
- GCSE Exam Results