Making South Yorkshire Safer

Students 'court' out by local Magistrate

Oct 12 2011

STUDENTS have today (12 October 2011) experienced the trauma of a court case at Sheffield Magistrates Court following a road traffic collision.

Eighteen-year old Michael Higgins had been driving his car when he was passed his mobile phone by his girlfriend and was distracted by two young children in the back of the car. As a result he ran a red light, was involved in a collision with a Ford Transit van and his girlfriend in the car passenger seat was killed instantly.

A distraught Higgins, who pleaded guilty and had no previous convictions, was charged with death by careless driving and was led down to the cells to begin a six month sentence behind bars, saying goodbye to his tearful mother as he left the court.

But the students from Longley Park Sixth Form College had been fooled – the court hearings were an elaborate hoax, organised by the South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership to teach the students about the importance of driving safely and paying attention to the road.

Genuine magistrates, police officers, court officials, prosecuting and defending solicitors all staged the trial as they would in a genuine case, playing their parts out, deceiving students and passing out a message of what can happen if you kill someone in a road traffic collision.,

In total 30 students attended the court, thinking that they were going to view a real court case, what they were actually viewing was a staged trial with Chris Matthews, a Theatre Studies student from Norton College playing the part of the defendant.

Chris Matthews said “The mock trial was set up to portray the importance of driving safely and paying attention to the road. From my point of view, playing the part of the defendant meant that all eyes were on me.

“The students really believed it was a real case and were shocked at how serious things can become if you loose concentration on the road for just a split second”.

Patrick Baker, a 16 year old student at Longley Park Sixth Form College said “I’ll soon be learning to drive and I really can’t imagine being in the position of the defendant.

“Having seen this mock case in court today I will ask friends not to answer their phone when they’re driving. Once i’m driving I will not answer my phone illegally and will either keep it turned off or locked away in the boot”.

Joe Hockney, Road Safety Officer at Sheffield Council said “From the moment that the students walked into the court building, through the security checks and into the courtroom they felt it was a genuine court case, when they saw the defendant was the same age as them they gasped with shock.

“The key message from the day is that a driver should always pay attention to the road, being distracted for just a split second could have a devastating impact on the rest of your life”.

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Barnsley Council Sheffield City Council Doncaster Council Rotherham Council South Yorkshire Police HM Courts Highways Agency