University Tour & Crown Court Visit

Hi. I’ve had a fairly active day compared to the usual slob and yawn.

I visited the University of Law campus for a tour. After being allowed to enter the modern building, I was literally on my way up in the elevator to the 4th floor.

The campus is very modern, clean and the available staff were friendly, as expected as prospective students are forking out around £15,000 for the bar course with masters. So, for that price I expect an escort on arrival and an oriental breakfast. Not this time I’m afraid (take note university).

The university comprises small classrooms and lecture theatres, boasting pro bono facilities, mock trials and all the advocacy training a potential barrister may need. The university also teaches business courses along with the LLB and GDL.

Overall the tour was decent. It lasted an hour from 10am to 11am. I would have liked to see some more bar course students and teaching staff, but of course, only a skeleton crew sufficed… if they could blame global warming for the pandemic they would. (I think they have).

Next I was on a journey to a public building in a public place supposedly conducting public hearings. I phoned the crown court yesterday to check that the public can now observe. On arrival, as with everything, I had to use the voice of reason and explain the previous days conversation and government guidance regarding court visits. I was ‘allowed’ on ‘this’ day. I find that extremely laughable, that a public court that has no right to refuse the public access to observe court, can ‘choose’ to let me in. You know, it isn’t the lawyers spouting this nonsense, it’s the other ‘security’ and ‘staff.’

One might think I had walked into an occult meeting, all these masked fellows and blokes and women wearing gowns and wigs and acting suspicious. No, I was under suspicion, in fact, I was the only member of the public there. I am not kidding, I saw no other member of the public. I even had to be escorted around by a covid marshal, although he was rather friendly and helped me find a court I could enter.

I ended up in the most magnificent of court rooms, ancient, elite wooden beams echoing the cries of the past, black and white ceilings, the old smell of dusty furniture and age. I was having a huge anxiety attack.

It happens

Don’t forget the massive lights, more like chandeliers, six of them. I had the patience to watch a few cases or trials. I was not in luck as this courtroom was predominantly dealing with sentencing. I was the only member of the public in the public gallery. I felt as if this was a huge stab in the back of justice. Why are the public seats empty? Five or so rows of red velvet lined benches, easy to keep people separated. But no. The public need to be in court to witness the proceedings to ensure a fair process, without this, these are essentially private hearings, conducted under the head of state and with potential to miscarry justice.

I didn’t witness anything bad or out of line. In fact a lovely barrister came and chatted to me for while before the hearing. I felt more at ease and assured after this. Partly because I was going into the same room (which I had waited for quite some time to do – the reluctance of the staff to let me in court rooms was reaching levels of delusions) and partly because she was giving me information about the case which I found great and of use for when the defendant entered the dock for sentencing.

I heard 2 sentencing hearings, if that is the official name. I enjoyed the experience. It is quite daunting to observe in such a big and strange room, with such old décor and manners, a sort of 17th century experience. The visit didn’t come without some emotions of course. Aside from being nervous, I was genuinely sorry for both the defendants. Seeing people get sent to prison is not a nice thing, and must be even harder to experience. I didn’t expect to feel this way and that is why I am writing about it. Practice trials, mooting and mock trials can only come so close to the real experience.

I was off out of court by 1pm, time to head back to Manchester Piccadilly train station and head home.

I hope this has been of interest to you all. Stay safe.

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