Wednesday, 13 February 2013

See for Yourself

Reading about Parliament and the Courts in a textbook can sometimes be less than exciting – and a little bit dry. One of the best ways to gain an understanding of how they work is to visit them in person.

Apart from some limited exceptions (mainly where young people are involved), the courts are open to the public. A visit to a Magistrates Court and a Crown Court can help make sense of ‘criminal procedure’. You can see the arguments put forward by the prosecution and defence; the examination and cross-examination. The role of key personnel may be seen. What role does the judge or the clerk play? What interactions are going on between the lawyers; the magistrates or the jury?

The higher courts – the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court – are worth visiting too. More emphasis is placed on legal argument than challenging the ‘assertions of fact’ by witnesses.

For information about the courts – There is a list of Magistrates Courts here; and a Court finder here. The Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand has the High Court and the Court of Appeal, but there are also ‘branches’ of both in major cities (such as Birmingham).

Parliament is open to the public. Visit the Parliamentary website for details of how to visit – for the tour; or to sit in the Chambers and committees.

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