Students on Nelson and Colne College Sixth Form’s Pre-Law programme have visited Preston Crown Court to gain a deeper understanding of the Criminal Justice System.

The Pre-Law programme at Nelson and Colne College Sixth Form is an innovative course which aims to prepare those who wish to enter the legal profession to prepare for their future career and university degree programmes. During the Pre-Professional Programmes, students are able to attend trips and visits to universities and places of interest relevant to their course. The College also welcomes visiting experts who come into the classroom to offer an insight into their careers and students also receive specialist advice and guidance for applying for places on these competitive degree programmes.

The Pre-Law students have already visited the Burnley Magistrates Court and Burnley Police Station, and this tour of the Preston Crown Court allowed them to see the different processes of sentencing offenders at these two types of courts. Magistrates courts can try only relatively minor offences and impose limited sentences, whereas serious offences are automatically referred to Crown Court and so it was useful for the students, who aspire to work in the legal profession, to see the differences between the two.

On their arrival the students were met by George Whalley, the Usher and Bailiff Manager, who gave them a tour of the court; explaining ‘court etiquette’ and processes. He showed them into a courtroom, explaining the layout, where people sit and the sorts of cases that are heard. He also pointed out the booths where solicitors can talk to their clients via video links to prisons. He then provided a list of the cases that would be heard that day and explained some of them; they included a case of a child murder where the parents were on trial – a case the students had already been following closely in the media.

During the trip, the students were able to watch two murder cases being presented to the judge and jury. Mr Whalley then gave the students a brief history of the courts and took them on an impromptu tour of Preston Sessions Court before they left. The students were very enthusiastic about this particular tour as it was the court that had held the trials of Harold Shipman and the murderers of James Bulger. These are both cases they had discussed previously in their classes.

A Level student Rosie Farrar remarked, “I really enjoyed watching the cross examination of a prosecution witness”. Court Usher and Bailiff Manager Mr Whalley said “The Pre-Law course is an excellent way for students to link theory with reality and practice” and added that he was very impressed with the students and that they were a credit to the College. As a result of the excellent impression they made, he has offered to accompany them on a trip to Lancaster Crown Court and Lancaster Prison to explain the history of the legal system.