This article was written by Ian Turner, Senior Lecturer in Law.
One Thursday in September, all first year law students travelled down to Nottingham for a visit to the Galleries of Justice. This was an event for new students as part of the Law School’s Induction Week; the visit also formed part of the assessment for the compulsory Year 1 module, Legal System. The Galleries of Justice is a crime and punishment museum in Nottingham’s old courthouse and gaol.
With over 140 students attending the trip, a convoy of coaches left Preston at 8am, arriving in Nottingham at 10.30am. The students were divided into several groups, allocating them to different activities during the day, with this writer taking responsibility for Group G. Our programme afforded us a welcome break at the beginning.
When it was time to get started Group G were met in the reception by a guide, who explained the history and origins of the museum. She then herded us into the old court room, explaining the location of the various court officials and legal professionals. Then we were ‘sent down to the cells’, where an employee dressed as an old gaoler told us tales of some of the condemned. After that we followed the trail of the old prison, meeting a hangman who explained the workings of the old gallows.
The next activity involved a debate organised by the museum, which discussed whether it is right to transport prisoners – this being a punishment meted out by judges of the old courthouse. Transportation of convicts was initially to the United States and then post-independence, to Australia.
The final activity of the day was a mock trial in the courthouse; the trial of alleged rioter, Valentine Marshall. Students took the parts of the defendant, the judge, counsel for the prosecution and defence, witnesses and members of the jury. This writer played the part of Captain Fitzsimmons, the head of the local militia, who witnessed the defendant in the act of riot. The verdict of our jury was ‘not guilty’.
The day finished at 4pm, when it was time to leave Nottingham for Preston. A great day was had by all!