Ministry of Justice
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Nottingham students judge criminals for themselves
Justice Minister Claire Ward and a group of Nottingham students have taken part in a mock court hearing at the Galleries of Justice Museum.
Punishments given to criminals are tough and sentencing is a complicated task. That is what Justice Minister Claire Ward and a group of Nottingham students discovered yesterday when they took part in a mock court hearing at the Galleries of Justice Museum.
Students from the Nottingham University Samworth Academy were invited to play the part of judge and jury and decide a defendant’s fate in a You be the Judge event organised by the local court. And, they discovered that the justice system is fairer and can be tougher than many people believe after they gave the defendant a more lenient sentence than the courts did in reality.
The mock trial was one of many that have been taking place across the country in a move to inform the public of how sentencing decisions are made. It coincided with the publication of national sentencing statistics, and revealed the story that the figures do not tell.
Judges and magistrates are independent and have the discretion to make decisions on what sentence to give criminals based on the circumstances and severity of each crime. This is a cornerstone of our justice system.
Justice Minister Claire Ward said:
‘Safe and decent places to live are a priority for all of us, and we are constantly working to remove the impact and fear of crime.
‘We believe that serious and dangerous criminals should be sent to prison, and remain there for as long as is necessary to protect the public. But it is also important to have measures in place that properly punish more minor crimes in the community, provide rehabilitation to stop reoffending in its tracks, and ensure victims are given appropriate support and consideration.
‘No two cases are the same and this can make the way criminals are punished a difficult process to understand, although it is also a crucial issue in which we all have an interest.
‘That’s why events like this one in Nottingham are so important – to help people see how punishments are decided and to show the public how much thought goes into giving criminals a sentence they deserve.’
Commenting on the sentencing statistics published yesterday, she added:
‘As an open and transparent government it’s right that we should publish figures about the punishments given by courts. But rows of numbers can never express how complicated each decision can be – and how many different factors judges have to take into account for every case.
‘Events like this are one way to show the public how much thought goes into giving criminals a sentence they deserve – one that will both punish and reform them. No two cases are ever the same.’
One student, Sam Bushell (15) said:
‘I’ve found the tour of the museum really interesting and taking part in the mock sentencing exercise was great fun. There were lots of discussions about what sentence we should give and in the end, the students ere more lenient than the adults. I’ve learnt more about the courts and one day, I might even train to be a lawyer.’
The event comes after the British Crime Survey showed 52% of people surveyed in Nottinghamshire were confident that the criminal justice system is fair.
Victim and witness satisfaction is at 84% in Nottinghamshire, showing those who actually experience the justice system first hand are more content with the service.
Notes to editors
- The Galleries of Justice Museum is based on the site of Nottinghamshire’s old courthouse and county gaol.
- Fifteen students and their teachers from the Nottingham University Samworth Academy took part in You be the Judge in the museum’s courtroom.
- The event was hosted by Her Majesty’s Courts Service Nottinghamshire and with the assistance of the National Centre for Citizenship and the Law.
- Sentencing statistics for Nottingham were published at 9.30am on Thursday 28 January 2010.
- Performance data for Nottinghamshire Criminal Justice Board
- For more information about the Galleries of Justice Museum, visit the National Centre for Citizenship and the Law.