UCT law students have been getting their first taste of the court room during a series of mock trials in the Athlone magistrates court, held from 24 to 28 August.
But while the witnesses and accused were all family and friends roped in for the day, the students appeared before real magistrates and were expected to observe all the usual protocols of court – working off actual charge sheets.
"There's no time for playing around," said Shaheeda Poole from the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) who helped prepare the 60 students for their day in court.
Poole spent two days going through the various stages of a criminal trial, and helping the students to prepare for their respective roles on the prosecution and defence teams.
The charge sheets supplied to the nine groups of students were based on relatively simple prosecutions for assault, possession of drugs, theft, driving under the influence of intoxicating liquor and malicious damage to property.
To keep the trials down to around 90 minutes before the lunch break each day, the students were told to limit themselves to two state witnesses.
The magistrates, who made themselves available, first dealt with the court's ordinary business of the day before making themselves available for the mock trials.
Said Poole: "The idea is to bridge the gap. Many law students don't have a clue about what actually happens in court, but perhaps the Oscar Pistorius trial has sparked their interest."
Story by Andrea Weiss. Photo by Je'nine May.
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