For everyone interested in the work of Britain's Parliament; the US Congress; the European Parliament and the French Parlement.
Discuss Practice, Procedure, History and current issues.
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).
I am a tutor for the Open University and have practical experience of working in the UK and European Parliaments.
Until May 2010 I worked at Westminster as Political Secretary to Lord Bach and to Lord Hunt of King's Heath. Previously I had worked as Research and Policy Director in the Office of Sir Peter Soulsby MP. In 2001 and 2005 I stood for Parliament in the South Leicestershire Constituency of Blaby. In 2009 I was a candidate for the European Parliament in the East Midlands Region.
I have a keen academic and practical interest in the workings of both the UK Parliament and the US Congress. I have made a number of study visits to Washington DC - and monitor proceedings, procedure and practice in the four chambers [House of Commons, House of Lords, House of Representative and the Senate]
Over the years I have broadcast on both UK & US Politics for BBC local radio including Radio Northampton; BBC Three Counties and BBC Radio Oxford.