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Former Head of Criminal Justice, Sir Brian Leveson, backs new court education programme

A former top judge has said there is a ‘desperate need’ for schools to do more to introduce pupils to police and lawyers, in order to improve trust in the criminal justice system.

Former Head of Criminal Justice, Sir Brian Leveson, backs new court education programme

Sir Brian Leveson said too many children grow up without a basic understanding of their rights and how the law works.

The comments from the former Head of Criminal Justice come as a new scheme to send children on immersive court experiences is launched in the West Country as part of a drive to reduce violent crime.

Funded by the Serious Violence Prevention Partnership and delivered by education charity Young Citizens, Court in Action will take students on visits to local courts to discover the role of judges, lawyers and the police and learn the consequences of crime. Teachers will also be able to access a suite of free classroom resources, spreading the message to thousands more learners across the West Country.

Sir Brian said: “This is an exciting opportunity for young people to engage positively with courts, the police and legal professionals. Too many children grow up without a basic understanding of their rights, how the law works or the real importance of engaging with the police and courts to help ensure that those who break the law are brought to justice. All this leads to a lack of trust in our legal system and low levels of access to justice, especially for the most vulnerable in society.

“The education system should do more to develop young people’s knowledge of the justice system generally. We desperately need many more of these opportunities for young people. For this reason, I continue to support the work of Young Citizens with schools across the UK.”

Young Citizens has over 30 years’ experience delivering public legal education programmes such as the national Mock Trial Competitions, which involve around 6,000 students and 2,000 legal volunteers each year.

Yvonne Richards, Director of Programmes and Learning, said: "Our charity is passionate about seeing all young people have the chance to learn about the law from people who work in the field. We are thrilled to see the South-West investing in this type of learning, which schools struggle to offer without extra help from charities like ours. Court in Action will bring together organisations and professionals from the across the criminal justice sector to make a real difference to young people’s understanding of the law."

Public Legal Education Manager, Akasa Pradhan, said: “Legal literacy is a vital skill for life. As a former teacher, I know that legal education is not often prioritised and can be hard to fit into the demands of the curriculum. Schools need support to bring the law to life, and we hope our Court in Action project will do just this. I cannot wait to see how young people engage with the resources and court visits. We hope they leave engaged and inquisitive after getting an opportunity to get involved in the systems that organise their society.”

Chairman of the Local Criminal Justice Board and Police and Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez, welcomed the new programme: “I’m delighted to see this ground-breaking new scheme launching for students and teachers in Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. This is thanks to the former High Sheriff of Devon highlighting good practice in Gloucestershire at our local Criminal Justice Board. We know that most young people don’t understand how justice is delivered nor realise the job opportunities available in the sector too.  Court in Action could make a real difference to the communities I serve.”

Schools can register their interest in the programme via the Young Citizens website.