On Saturday 16 school teams battled it out for the crown of this year’s Bar National Mock Trial Competition. They had to compete against each other in a real courtroom, in front of real judges.
Here John Cooper QC tells why he gets involved.
I am tremendously excited to be a judge in today’s national final of the Citizenship Foundation’s Bar National Mock Trial Competition for 15-18 year old state school students.
Many years ago, too many to dwell on, I was lucky enough to go to school at a flagship comprehensive called Regis in Tettenhall, Wolverhampton. The dedication and commitment of the teachers there meant that I thrived, and provided the basis for me to achieve a deeply held ambition to become a barrister.
Despite this, people would tell me that, coming as I did from a working class background, with no lawyers in the family, and being the first person from my family to go to university, I would not break into the cloistered world of the Bar. The profession was portrayed as a bastion of public school Oxbridge types, closed to comprehensive, state products like myself. They were wrong. Even then, the Bar proved itself to be accessible to the determined, tenacious and driven. But it was still hard.
What is happening today in Belfast, thanks to the Citizenship Foundation and the support of all Bar Councils from around the UK, is that the wealth of talent in our state schools is being given a chance to show what they can do, experience the criminal justice system and prove what I personally already know: the Bar is open to all.
John Cooper QC, 25 Bedford Row, London
Honorary Visiting Professor of Law, Cardiff