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Collaborative professional learning in a simulated Magistrates Court

Collaborative professional learning in a simulated Magistrates Court. Learning and Teaching Conference Friday 13 July 2007. Introductions. Sergeant Steve Day (Professional Development Sergeant, Fda Certificate, Policing in Partnership with Communities)

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Collaborative professional learning in a simulated Magistrates Court

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  1. Collaborative professional learning in a simulated Magistrates Court Learning and Teaching Conference Friday 13 July 2007

  2. Introductions • Sergeant Steve Day (Professional Development Sergeant, Fda Certificate, Policing in Partnership with Communities) Detective Inspector Ali Eaton (Police Lead, Fda Certificate, Policing in Partnership with Communities) • James Macdonald (Professional Programmes Leader and Law Subject Group Leader) All based within Brighton Business School.

  3. Aim of the session The theme of this year’s Teaching and Learning Conference is: “Sharing the learning space” One of the most difficult things about learning to be a professional is developing confidence to practice effectively alongside other professionals. Our aim in this session is to present a case study of a “safe learning space” for students learning to take up professional roles in the law.

  4. BackgroundStudent Officer Course • All police forces in England and Wales are now empowered to make their own arrangements for the initial training of their officers, subject to satisfying national criteria determined by the Home Office (a set of basic skills set out in 44 “Police Action Checklists” (PACS)) . • Consequently, a Student Office Course (SOC) was developed by Sussex Police in partnership with a consortium of regional universities, led by the University of Brighton. • The 43 week SOC leads to a Foundation Certificate in “Policing in Partnership with Communities”, awarded by the University of Brighton.

  5. BackgroundStudent Officer Course • Commenced in April 2006 • Positioned within the Business School at Moulsecoomb, but actually run from three sites - Eastbourne, Falmer and Bognor. • Four cohorts of 50-60 students (per cohort) will normally enrol each year. • Course is structured in eight modules, delivered in five blocks consisting of time in the classroom, and time spent on placements at operational police locations. • Successful graduates may then go on independent patrol. • The first cohort graduated in January 2007.

  6. BackgroundStudent Officer Course Two important PACs that the Student Officer’s must achieve are: preparing for court; and presenting evidence in court. They are also required to prove competence in respect of the the relevant National Occupational Standards in relation to: court procedure; case preparation; and giving evidence in court.

  7. BackgroundStudent Officer Course “The value of training and teaching Police Officers to be able to perform to the highest standard when involved in court cases and providing evidence cannot be underestimated. Many cases are lost through poor preparation and mistakes in the witness box.” D.I. Ali Eaton

  8. BackgroundLaw at Brighton Business School • Brighton Business School offers a Qualifying Law Degree (LLB(Hons) Law with Business), and a Common Professional Examination course (Postgraduate Diploma in Law), both of which fulfil the “Academic Stage of Training” for the purpose of qualifying as a Solicitor or Barrister. • All students on the LLB are required to participate in assessed mooting (i.e. argue complex points of law in a court room environment), and the PG Dip Law students are encouraged to engage in mooting. Also, all law students are required to give assessed oral presentations. • However, Academic Stage students would not normally have the opportunity to handle and assess real criminal case files, and examine/cross-examine witnesses on factual matters - this is not included in the QAA benchmarks for undergraduate law degrees, or required by the law PRSBs.

  9. BackgroundCollaborative opportunity Therefore an excellent opportunity was identified for the the police team and the law team at Brighton Business School to collaborate in developing a simulated courtroom/ roleplaying event, which could offer a unique learning experience for both police and law students. However, from the outset there was a fundamental difference between the involvement of the police and law students: • participation of police students compulsory and assessed; • participation of law students voluntary and non-assessed.

  10. Court simulations • The first courts took place in Mithras House on Monday 16th January and Tuesday 17th January when 59 police students, 27 law students, 10 police staff, 2 law staff, 3 magistrates and a court clerk, as well as numerous observers sitting in the public gallery (University staff and students), participated. • The second courts took place on Monday 16th April and Tuesday 17th April, with similar levels of participation. • The third courts are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday next week, which will be run in conjunction with an Aim Higher “widening participation” event .

  11. Court simulationsTraining - student officers The training of the student officers comprises: • a 90 minute session which covers the rules of evidence, how to give evidence, court procedure, case preparation and witness care; and • watching a “Giving Evidence” video/DVD devised by a group of Barristers in London, commissioned by the Metropolitan Police. The aim is to deliver key material to the police students in the classroom, and then reinforce it through the simulated court experience.

  12. Court simulationsTraining - law students The training of the law students comprises: • observing a real magistrates court in action; • watching a training session given by the local branch of the Crown Prosecution Service on court etiquette, the key rules of evidence in a criminal court and how to examine different types of witness (available streamed on studentcentral); • watching the “Giving Evidence” video/DVD; • watching recordings of previous cases; • reading briefing notes produced by the police team; • reading sample case files produced by the police team; and • access to the police team for advice. The aim has been to enable the law students to train at their own pace, and at a time of their own choosing, principally via a dedicated area on studentcentral.

  13. Court simulationMechanics and processes • Each police student produces a case file containing relevant “sanitized” evidence of a case that they had actually been involved in. • A formal “court list” is produced, listing all the 60 cases to be heard in the eight sittings over two days that the simulated magistrates court sits. • Each police student is served with an official court warning prior to the court, giving them notice when they will be required in court. • The law students are provided with their case files approximately two weeks prior to the courts (some of which will require them to act as a prosecuting lawyer, and some as a defence lawyer). • The law students prepare their examination/cross-examinations, which will usually include undertaking some research on the relevant offences .

  14. Court simulationMechanics and processes • The court room is set within the Business School, modelled on a local magistrates court, including a witness stand, prosecution/defence benches, magistrates bench, press bench and public gallery etc. • The bench comprises three real senior magistrates (who are also serving members of Sussex Police Authority) who provide the necessary air of authority, reality and credibility. • Normal court etiquette is observed.The officers are required to wear full uniform, and the law students are required to wear suits. • There is a waiting room outside the court (the Business School student lounge) from which the student officers are called by an “usher”.

  15. Court simulationMechanics and processes • Prior to the officer entering the case, the prosecuting lawyer outlines the key facts of case to the magistrates. • On entering the court, each student officer is obliged to swear/affirm. • The officer is then examined on their evidence by the prosecuting lawyer and cross-examined by the defence lawyer. • While each officer gives evidence, some form of distraction is usually created, such as eating or talking in the public gallery, or a mobile phone ringing, which prompts the magistrates to halt the case to admonish the culprit(s)! • Each case is filmed, and the recording is played back to the relevant officer in a “hot” debriefing session, with a Professional Development Officer (who are all qualified assessors), immediately after the case. • The magistrates provide feedback to the law students.

  16. FeedbackStudent officers “The course was very professionally put together and realistic. I think both sets of students were nervous but it was an incredibly useful experience.” Emma Bosson - Student officer “I was certainly nervous before I went in, but as it progressed I settled into the environment. Looking back now I think if I was to go to court in a real incident for a court case I would be much more comfortable. I’d know who I needed to speak to, and where I needed to go, the kind of questions I would be probed on and how to give my answers in an effective way” Ryan Tipping - Student officer

  17. FeedbackLaw students “I thoroughly enjoyed questioning the police witnesses on Monday, all of whom I think deserve to do really well in their assessment. It was a particularly valuable experience from an academic point of view as this was for many of us the first time we were able to apply our legal knowledge in a very practical and realistic context. My ambition is to practice as a barrister (although in civil law rather than criminal) and the simulated court experience has very much confirmed to me that being a lawyer is what I want to do. Students on the law programme at this university should be fervently urged to take part in projects like these. It offers the chance to test yourself in real-time, apply our knowledge of law and procedure in a very public setting and to work alongside people on the course who we may not have met otherwise.” Daniel Hoadley - BA(Hons) Law with Business student - Year 2

  18. FeedbackLaw students “This experience is one I would recommend to anyone, no matter what area of law they are looking at pursuing. Standing up in front of real magistrates and putting your case forward was admittedly nervewracking at first, but by the last case we were enjoying ourselves so much that we didn't want to stop. It was nice to know that we weren't the ones really under the pressure, and remember that the exercise was to benefit the trainees and not a chance for us to prove ourselves as great litigators of the future, but also great to have a couple of cases that we could have more fun with and put our prosecuting and defending skills to work... thinking on our feet when needed (as was certainly the case for one of mine!), and generally getting into our roles and enjoying every minute. It gave us the opportunity to prepare cases, stand up and argue them, and just get a feel for what our futures might be like! Loved it, and would certainly do it again!” Katie White - PG Dip Law/CPE - Year 2

  19. FeedbackLaw students “This was an excellent activity, very professionally organised and much more than just something to stick on my CV.I'm generally quite confident about my 'presentation skills' so I was taken aback at how nervous I felt standing up in court and how weak I thought my voice sounded.The first thing I did when I got home was to sign up for some voice coach training.From taking part I picked up important practical details, such as learning that police witnesses are trained to address all their answers to the bench, so they're never actually looking at you when they're answering your questions which really takes some getting used to, especially as a defence lawyer.” John Russell - PG Dip Law/CPE - Year 2

  20. FeedbackLaw students “Considering how nervous I was about the experience I actually found the challenge quite enjoyable. I was particularly worried about how my nerves would hold up during the hearing, but found that I wasn't as bad as anticipated. I was actually quite proud at the end of it. I feel that the experience was extremely beneficial. Surprisingly I would actually quite like to do it again, now that I know what to expect. I actually received compliments on how professional I sounded in one of the hearings, which was a bit of a surprise!” Shennelle Morant BA(Hons) Law with Accountancy student – Year 3

  21. FeedbackPolice team “By making the learning experience as realistic as possible this is the nearest exposure the students are going to have to the court system in terms of their role and giving evidence. What makes this training so successful is that we have got real magistrates along with law students who will be real prosecutors and defence solicitors in the future and soon to be police officers.” Sergeant Ian Cheesman - SOC Lecturer

  22. FeedbackPolice team “[I]t was a great opportunity to open up our local police training to public scrutiny, it was great to see such a wide range of people involved in the training of their police officers. I am sure for many it was the first time they had been so close to Police training, particularly those who watched with such interest from the public gallery.. These couple of days have demonstrated how far initial police training within Sussex has progressed, these new recruits have far more contact with their local communities than ever before, and are already reaping the benefits of partnership working” Sergeant Stephen Day - SOC Lecturer

  23. FeedbackMagistrates “[W]are pleased that the Authority is leading the way by being involved with this innovative form of training. We want to see cases being properly prepared and brought to court in a way that convictions will be secured. Giving evidence in court is a challenging experience and watching the students do it brought home to us how valuable it is for them to be given the chance so early in their career. Hopefully when they come to do it in ‘real life’ they will be more confident.” Sue Iles-Jonas, Sussex Police Authority Magistrates

  24. Other publicity • Coverage in an article in The Times newspaper on 23 January 2007. • Article in Patrol (the newspaper of Sussex Police) in March 2007. • Article in Magistrates (national magazine for magistrates) in May 2007.

  25. Issues & improvements • Maintaining appropriate professional boundaries between magistrates & HM court service / police service. • More guidance to student officers on case selection and defendant names. • Enhancing the training provision for the law students via studentcentral. • Encouraging law students, when roleplaying prosecution solicitors, to locate and speak to their witness student officer immediately prior to hearings. • Making the “waiting room” experience more realistic (by giving student officers less detail about when exactly they will be called)

  26. Court simulationAdvantages/positives • An active, experiential, student-led learning method which heightens interest and enthusiasm of nearly all students (and staff). • Effectively bridges the gap between the classroom and “real world”. • Boosts most students’ skills and confidence, and understanding of the court process in action. • Increases the students’ professional role awareness. • Provides an opportunity for the two different groups of future professionals to interact and develop an understanding of each others professional roles . • For the law students, helps inform career choices, and enhances their CVs.

  27. Court simulationAdvantages/positives (continued) • For the student officers, reduces fears of going to court and reduces the chance of them making mistakes in the witness box. • Demonstrates the benefits of positioning initial police training within a University environment. • Enhances public scrutiny of police training in the community. • Offers a valuable opportunity for police staff and law staff to work together. • Provides a holistic approach to learning and development which leads to a more in-depth understanding of the “court experience”.

  28. Court simulationDisadvantages/negatives • Suits some students learning styles more than others. • Runs risk of de-sensitizing students to the court room experience and fostering complacency. • Significant logistical exercise demanding a considerable amount of preparation and organisation (4 x 2 days per year). • Reliant on a large number of people giving their time for free. • Added expense of props, equipment, catering etc.

  29. Court simulationFuture developments • Involvement of other University students and prospective “professionals” - in fields of journalism, social work, probation. • Widening the pool of potential lawyers. • Vehicle for research. • Vehicle for Aim Higher events.

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