Law plays a significant role in powering up individuals to protect and promote their rights and beliefs. An audience, made up off School pupils, budding law enthusiasts, and local residents, took part in the Lancashire Science Festival in the form of a jury, during a re-enactment of an 1832 trial, dealing with the outcome of the Reform Bill riots.
Law School Staff combined with current and former students dressed in period clothing to re-create an energetic interpretation of the struggles that everyday men had, in fighting to be allowed to vote. At the time only 4% of the adult population was entitled to vote (obviously all male) – it would be 86 more years before all men (and some women) got the vote – nearly 100 years before all men and all women could vote on even terms. We saw the defence and prosecutors battle it out over the fate of the 11 year old defendant named Valentine Marshall.
The audiences also learned about the trial process, with each partaker and their role being introduced individually. A fantastic time was had by participants and guests, a real eye-opener to what it would have been like to stand trial in the 1930’s. The final verdict given by the jury was decided by them holding ‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty placards’.
During the first two sessions we were joined by Law school alumnus and former England and Blackburn Rovers footballer Stuart Ripley, who is now an expert sports law solicitor. Stuart acted as Judge in the proceedings, – he has been incredibly triumphant in his legal career to date and not long ago judged the Football Association’s tribunal in the John Terry racism case. He said: “I loved my time at UCLan and have kept in touch with some of the staff. It was lovely of them to ask me back for this and I’m more than delighted to help out. For me it’s all about getting children interested in the law. It’s a great profession and I just hope that this event gives these children a taste of what a career in the law could be like.”
For the performances of the following day His Honour Judge Anthony Russell QC, Recorder of Preston and Resident Judge for Lancashire acted as judge, adding a stern feel to the event; although he revealed a mischievous character, putting the barristers and witnesses on the spot on several occasions. He reported:- “Thank you very much for organising what was a most enjoyable day last Saturday……I particularly enjoyed meeting you and the other members of staff and those splendid young people who put such a lot into the event.”
Viewers were also welcomed to get involved with an interactive law quiz, discussions on sentencing and a debate on prejudice in relation to gender and voting rights. An enjoyable time was had by all – but there holds a question – who will be in the defendant’s box next?