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For our Year 11 Legal Studies students, a trip to the Downing Centre Law Courts was a real eye opener.
Last week, Ms Isbel and Ms Campbell accompanied their Year 11 Legal Studies classes to the Downing Centre Law Courts, where they heard cases involving rape, armed robbery, drug smuggling and abduction.
This is what Maddie had to say:
“On the 20th February, the two Year 11 Legal Studies classes got a taste of law and order as we visited the renowned Downing Centre Local and District Courts in the city. We met at School in the morning and then caught the train from North Sydney to Town Hall, hyped with anticipation, curiosity and fear of what was to come. The majority of us had never been to a local or district court before. We entered and were taught the obligatory and expected behaviour and rules of the court. These included bowing to the judge when entering and leaving the room, turning our phones off, staying quiet and most importantly being extremely serious and respectful. Some of us were surprised when told we were not allowed to bring in metal water bottles, as they pose the threat of a clandestine bomb operation.
Although the cases were certainly different to some of our pre-conceptions, such as the intense pool-cleaner murder trial that barrister Elle Woods stylishly fought for in Legally Blonde, it was still an incredibly interesting and exciting day for us legal nuts. We were allowed to walk around the centre all morning and visit the various cases of the local and district courts. Some of the standout cases of the morning included a rape case, an armed robbery and a drug smuggling operation. However, the one that sparked the most interest was the brief abduction of two young girls by a mentally ill woman on the street who accused them of sleeping with her partner and threatened them with weapons. Some of us were lucky enough to see her sentencing. We realised the complete gravity of these cases as their outcomes would ultimately have lifelong impacts on the individuals involved, whether convicted guilty or not. Amidst the excitement, they also proved to be extremely confrontational.
Although we had previously learnt about the judicial system in class, it was this intimate experience of sitting through the trials and seeing the judiciary in practice which allowed us to truly consolidate and expand our knowledge. We learnt the importance of the seating positions of the various roles. For example, the judge sits at the front on a raised bench to emphasise their importance and power. We learnt that the justice process can be a long and at times, trying process for all individuals involved. We also discovered that other groups, such as the police for enforcement and the Red Cross for support, also play a key role in the justice system.
After stopping at Greenwood Plaza for lunch, we headed back to School for a session by the Rule of Law Institute on the Rule of Law. We learnt about the different types of courts and laws in Australia, the impact of law on society and how to analyse law. We also learnt some beneficial tips for succeeding the intriguing and challenging course we have embarked on!
Overall, it was an incredible excursion that we all enjoyed and benefited from. It not only taught us a lot about the process of the justice system, it gave us a new insight into how law is administrated and practiced in Australia. We would like to greatly thank Ms Isbel and Ms Campbell for making this excursion possible.”
Annie was equally fascinated by the day.
“At first, it was a daunting prospect to walk into a courtroom where a case was in progress, however, nobody really took notice of us and we were lucky enough to be able to sit in on some really interesting cases. I sat in on two cases, one of these in the Local Court and one in the District Court, where I witnessed a jury in action. Personally, I found the Local Court case the most interesting. A woman was on trial for assault and I saw a witness pledging on an oath that she would tell the truth as well as provide evidence. Later in the day, we discovered the Local Court that was setting hearing dates for a range of different people, some who were representing themselves. I didn’t realise how fast a process this is, with the Judge setting hearing dates for three people in the space of 15 minutes. The excursion has opened my eyes to what goes on in court and the set-up of different courts and I am excited to learn more about this in my Legal Studies class.”