MORE than 130 young people from across Cumbria will take part in the 2014 Magistrates’ Court Mock Trial competition at South Lakeland Magistrates’s Court, Kendal, on Friday.

Groups of 12 to 14-year-olds will take on the roles of lawyers, witnesses, magistrates, court staff and a defendant in the 20th annual competition, which is run by the Citizenship Foundation in partnership with the Magistrates’ Association.

The students will enact a specially written case in which the defendant stands accused of dishonestly receiving a stolen bicycle.

The competition enables students to learn about all aspects of the criminal justice system - the law, procedures, consequences and the staff – and to develop confidence in personal skills such as public speaking, analysis techniques and working as a team.

Local magistrates, law students and other legal professionals help the teams prepare by giving information on the everyday workings of magistrates’ courts and hosting court visits. Students may also take part in the court reporter and court artist competitions.

The Cumbria local heats will host 11 schools on Friday with students taking part from Kendal, Appleby, Barrow, Carlisle, Workington, Keswick and Wigton.

Sixty-three heats are taking place nationally over the next three weeks, followed by regional finals in May before the prestigious national final at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court in June 2014.

A teacher whose school entered last year’s competition said: “This is an excellent opportunity for students to participate in a completely realistic legal scenario. It is challenging and stimulating and I know that our students gained a lot of knowledge, confidence and enjoyment from taking part.”