In the lefthand side image, Lizzy Cross is pictured speaking to staff inside the Royal Courts of Justice, holding a microphone. In the picture on the right, Lizzy poses with others outside the courts.


Lizzy Cross is Bar Mock Trials Programme Coordinator at the national education charity, Young Citizens. She is a former primary and secondary school teacher and has an MA in Law. In this guest blog, Lizzy speaks to those taking part about why they took part, the importance of the intiative and how it helps young people become active citizens. 


In March 2024, 325 students aged 15 to 18 from 22 state school teams across the UK competed in the final of the National Bar Mock Trial Competition at the Royal Courts of Justice.  

The competition has been hosted by Young Citizens since 1991. Many within the legal profession will know us by our former name "The Citizenship Foundation", founded by the great Lord Andrew Phillips who leaves behind a monumental legacy in citizenship education.

Tens of thousands of young people have taken part in the competition's 33-year history, taking on the main roles of a criminal trial (prosecution, defence, witnesses, jurors and even defendant) with fictional cases written by legal professionals. Teams compete in regional heats against other schools in real courthouses, supported by guidance and mentorship from practising judges and barristers. The regional winners then progress to the big National Final in London!

Many participants go on to practise law, but the competition is not just intended as a funnel into legal careers. It has a much wider role to play for our students. It helps young people to understand how the law impacts their lives; who makes our laws; how sentences are decided; and how they can make their voice heard. It is also an intense incubator for skills development and a catalyst for their wider participation in civic society.

We spoke to our young people, teachers, volunteers and alumni about why the Mock Trial Competition means so much to them.

Why did you want to take part in the competition and what did you get out of the experience?

Student: "Even if you don't study law, the Mock Trial Competition is a good way to find out more about the court system. The law is something you hear about, but don't really understand until you've actually been inside a courtroom."

Student: "As someone who is studying law at the moment, and hopes to go into a career in law, the competition has given me an insight into what it’s going to be like in the future by demonstrating each role of a criminal trial. I’ve also developed communication skills and the ability to speak in front of people I don't know. It's definitely helped me to get over my fear of public speaking."

Student: "I'm interested in law because being part of something greater than yourself and being able to bring justice into the world, is such a nice idea."

How does legal education help young people to become active citizens?

Mike Porteous, Director of Learning at Royal Latin School: "Nowadays, a lot of people don't know about the law. It's all a bit of a mystery, especially with the way judges and barristers dress and speak. But the law is a key part of our society, and it impacts everyone, so it's really important that young people learn about it. Students need to prepare themselves through opportunities like this, because they will eventually be part of that society, making the big decisions.”


Sally smiles wearing a wig and gown.


Dr. Sally Penni MBE, barrister at Kenworthy’s and a Young Citizens volunteer: “To be active citizens who can fully participate in society, it's crucial that young people understand where laws come from, what might happen if they don't understand the law and the consequences of breaking the law. Competitions like this and organisations like Young Citizens do this so well. I think it's crucial for young people to recognise the opportunities that are out there and how to get involved, particularly from an early age.”



How do young people benefit from legal education programmes like the Bar Mock Trials?


Louise smiling wearing a wig and a black gown with purple sleeves and a purple and red collar.


HHJ Louise Brandon, judge and former Mock Trials participant: “This competition means so much to me. I think young people should take part because it equips them with a whole variety of skills. It enables them to learn about the legal system and what goes on in a courtroom, but most importantly it demonstrates that you can work as a team, speak in public and solve problems, which are fantastic skills for future employers.

“I've been fortunate enough to see three of the trials today, and the advocacy was just brilliant. The questions the students were asking were thoughtful and insightful, and the way they delivered their speeches was fantastic. I think I've seen several barristers in the making here today.

"It's not just for those who want to be lawyers, but if you do, it's a great way of learning what the job is all about and it’s also great fun!”


How can you support Young Citizens?
  • Beyond mock trials, we reach over half a million children and young people every year through a range of resources and programmes. To help us continue our essential work with schools, please consider donating here.  
  • We couldn’t run the Mock Trial competition each year without the support of hundreds of volunteers. If you can spare some time, please register your interest here.
  • Want to introduce the law to children and young people? Volunteer as part of The Big Legal Lesson – our national campaign to start a conversation about the law in local schools.