YOUNG people from six county schools took on the roles of defendants, magistrates, lawyers and court staff in a mock trial competition last week.

Students taking part in the competition, run in partnership by the Citizenship Foundation and HMCTS, enacted a specially written scenario in which the defendant stood accused of burglary.

The 12-14 year olds had to role play without any reliance on a script, and against teams they had not met before.

The competition is designed to enable students to learn about different aspects of the criminal justice system – the law, procedures, and consequences – and to develop confidence in skills such as public speaking, analysis techniques and working as a team.

Local magistrates helped the teams prepare by visiting schools, and hosting court visits. Some students also took part in a court reporter and a court artist competition, which runs parallel to the main event and is judged nationally by the Citizenship Foundation.

Winners on the day were Whitecross High School from Hereford, with Steiner Academy from Much Dewchurch taking a close second place. Other teams competing were Earl Mortimer College, Fairfield High School, Wigmore High School and John Kyrle High School.

Herefordshire organiser, Leigh Brazewell JP, said: "It was a very close contest and the standard again in Herefordshire was very high. We’re very proud of all the students, they all played incredibly well and were a credit to their schools."

Whitecross automatically gained a place at the regional heat which will take their place in Newport in May. Regional qualifiers go through to a national final at the Royal Courts of Justice in London in June.

Dignitaries attending the event included Lady Darnley, his honour Judge Daniel Pearce-Higgins QC, the High Sheriff of Herefordshire Bill Jackson, Chairman of Herefordshire Council Brian Wilcox, the Mayor of Hereford Councillor Jim Kenyon, the Mayoress Councillor Kath Hey and Sue Furnival JP DL who is the Chair of the Herefordshire bench.

A presentation ceremony afterwards was led by Paul Deneen.