Executive Summary

This is a new initiative by the Law School that will provide a novel learning experience to a mix of first year Law students, intermediate year students and finalists. First year Law students do not currently have the opportunity to learn in groups with older year groups and so this event will be innovative and inclusive, unifying the undergraduate community in the Law School.

The event will also be open to students from the Humanities Faculty and Sociology Department. This innovative project is therefore interdisciplinary, inclusive and diverse and will forge and strengthen links between the Law School and the wider community, both within and outside the university.

The initiative is also innovative as it takes learning outside the classroom to the County Records Office in Warwick and the Warwick Court House in the town of Warwick. Students will explore the records of court cases (Petty Sessions) from Warwick’s past (18th and 19th century) in the Records Office assisted by staff there and then work with a script writer and a team of volunteers in the historic Warwick Court House to write and stage a re-enactment, which they will then perform to others in the University, at Open Days and at Widening Participation school visits.

Many students will not have been in a law court before this event nor examined historic court records. Seeing how justice was administered in the past, and where justice was administered will be very educational and students will then be able to create a lasting resource for others to enjoy..

As the Old Warwick Court House is relatively unchanged since the nineteenth century, and the re-enactments will be performed in period costume, the experience will bring to life cases from the past. This will be of great benefit to students as they are often required to learn the detail of cases from the eighteenth and nineteenth century but can find it difficult to appreciate the historical context in which the judgments were given. The experience will be innovative as it will allow students to research and re-enact cases from local Petty Sessions from Warwick’s past and thus give them an ‘authentic’ experience of the law.

The students will have access to the original court records held by the County Record Office, including the original depositions from the witnesses and the defendants. Once students have researched the cases, they will create a script with a script writer and re-enact the trials in the historic courtroom where the hearings originally took place, acting as the jury, judge and witnesses. Students will be acting as researchers and therefore partners in their learning.

The creative and collaborative experience will therefore incorporate a blend of innovative student-led, performance-based, open space learning.

The event will be managed, with staff support and support from the Unlocking Warwick team from Warwick Town Council, by a working party of students. In particular, students will be involved in deciding how to record this event so it can be used as a resource by students in the future, at Open Days and by the Widening Participation programme within the Law School.