A fairy tale character had her day in court as Ecole Morden Middle School students acted out a mock trial during Law Day on April 5.
This was the fourth annual Law Day held in Morden. The event is put on by the Manitoba Bar Association, and events like it are held all over the country.
“I’m so happy that the public and the school are on board year after year,” crown attorney Carli Owens said. “We have such great support. The kids really enjoy it.”
Grade 6 students from Lindsey Jacobs’ class at EMMS brought Alice Liddell (of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) to trial. She was charged with break and enter with intent, mischief and assault on the Queen’s card soldiers.
The White Rabbit, Queen of Hearts and Knave of Hearts (played by Morden’s Const. Jeff Forster) were called on behalf of the Crown, and Alice, the Cheshire Cat and Mad Hatter testified in Alice’s defense.
The students had a chance to act as characters on the witness stand, the jury and attorneys representing the Crown and Alice’s defense.
In the end, the jury found Alice not guilty of break and enter and mischief, but guilty of assault. As a first time offender, Alice was put on probation and was sentenced to apologize and serve community service time, as rehabilitation was of paramount importance.
Jacobs said the experience is always exciting for students. “Some of it is overwhelming,” he said. “They’re learning a lot of information about really grown-up matters, hoping to prepare them for possible careers in the field.”
“The Courthouse is here to protect and to serve the people of the community,” he added. “To have the students see that as a place that’s welcoming or here for them is a good thing. It’s here to serve the public.”
Owens said she hopes students and the public gain a better understanding of how Sections 7 and 11 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply the justice system.
Section 7 gives Canadians the right to life, liberty and security (and the right to not be deprived of these things). Section 11 covers the rights of a person charged with an offense, including being tried in a reasonable time, to be presumed innocent until proven guilty and to not be tried for an offense they have been previously acquitted for.
“We know as Canadians that we have the right to a fair hearing and the right to full answer and defense, but most people fortunately will never come into contact with the justice system, so they don’t really understand how those work,” Owens said. “When they read something in the paper or watch it on the news, it’s hard for them to understand why that outcome happened in that trial. It’s my hope that seeing those principles play out in a mock trial will help them better understand how the system works and the outcomes that are reported in the news.”