A Rotorua Court initiative that gives an insight into the justice process is proving popular with secondary school students and youth groups.
‘Beyond the Bars’ teaches young people about the justice system and its critical role in our society. Students enter the courthouse through the cells before moving to a mock trial, where they each act as judge, prosecutor, defence lawyer, juror and victim.
Central North Island Service Delivery Manager, Dan O’Brien, says the programme, which has been running for around 2 years, aims to show local youth how the court works and profile some of the careers on offer in the justice sector. It also highlights to them how their choices can influence their lives, positively and negatively. ‘We use examples that are likely to resonate with young people, such as a careless use of a motor vehicle charge arising from texting while driving,’ Dan says. ‘When they act as the victim and read a mock victim impact statement, it can be very powerful.
‘Students have said the mock trial was very realistic and they got a good understanding of the justice process.’
The court visits are organised with the voluntary support of local Police, lawyers and the judiciary.