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SmartLaw is a programme from Young Citizens.



To enter the Magistrates’ Court Mock Trial Competition, you must register for a SmartLaw account, complete an online application form, and pay the full entry fee (see point 3). By entering the competition, the ‘lead teacher’ assumes responsibility for preparing the team, disseminating the relevant resources needed to prepare, ensuring that their team attends the heat on the relevant day of the competition on time, and ensures the team is supervised during the day. This responsibility may be shared with an additional ‘support teacher’ in your school. The relevant teachers must remain communicative and inform Young Citizens in writing if circumstances in their school have changed that impacts their team’s participation in the competition.


The competition is open to students aged 12 to 14 from non-fee paying schools and education providers in the England, Wales and Northern Ireland (year 8 – 9 in England and Wales, and year 9 – 10 in Northern Ireland). Teams are between 10 – 15 students. Your team needs to be prepared to compete on a Saturday or in some cases a Friday during heat weekends. Some online heats may take place on weekdays.


The entry fee of £210 entitles you to competition preparation material, cases, online video resources, places in the Court Artist and Court Reporter Competitions, and allocation to a local heat. Where possible, this may include support from a Young Citizens Local Organiser and/or a liaison magistrate.

The Magistrates’ Court Mock Trial PLUS Membership of £280 includes unlimited access to more than twenty-five lessons which tackle a number of SMSC, Citizenship and PSHE themes using the topic of the law for 12 months, as well as the benefits listed above.

The entry fee must be received by the final date of payment (21st November 2023) for your school to be allocated a place in the competition and receive the case materials.


Allocations will not be processed until application form and entry fee have been received.

In each year of the competition, more applications are received than places are available. Priority will be given to applications in the following order:

  1. new schools which have applied before the deadline, or schools which we consider will help to meet our goals of increasing social mobility and social inclusion through the programme;
  2. reserve schools which were not placed in the previous year and have applied before the deadline;
  3. schools that participated in the competition in the previous year and have applied before the deadline;
  4. schools that have applied after the deadline; and
  5. schools that have failed to attend heats with little or no notice.


We endeavour to provide all teams who apply with a place in the competition but if a heat is oversubscribed, we may allocate you a reserve place on the waiting list. Reserve teams should prepare for the competition, however will only be allocated a place at the heat if another school withdraws. You will be notified via email if your reserve team is later allocated a place in the competition. All waiting list schools will be given the option to participate in a later virtual heat. 


You must actively inform, via email, a member of the Young Citizens team of your intention to withdraw. The deadline for refunded withdrawals is 1st December 2023. Withdrawals on or before this date will receive a full refund minus a £40 administration fee. Withdrawals after this date will not be refunded. Withdrawals after the deadline cause considerable logistical problems for us and may affect our ability to place you in the competition in future years.


We are committed to delivering a mock trial experience for everyone who is allocated a place next year in some form at the locations listed. Usually, we host our mock trials in court buildings. We will be using the following approach when deciding venues for next year:

  1. Courts – We are currently in the process of checking in with courts nationally to see if they are able to accommodate us for next cycle. If they confirm that we are able to use the court building, this will be the venue we use.
  2. Alternative Venues – If courts are unable to host us, we will try and secure alternative venues in the local area such as halls, universities etc.
  3. Online Competition – If either of the above options are not possible, we will host the competition online using a platform such as Zoom.

Please note – this may mean that heats may be held slightly differently in different locations.


Once you have been successful with your application and been allocated a local heat, you will receive one specially written criminal case, guides for each student role, and a logistical guide and a team preparation guide. You must prepare both defence and prosecution for the case.


Each team should consist of four lawyers, four witnesses, an usher, a legal advisor and three magistrates. Each student role is provided with specific guidelines on how to prepare for their role within the guide. If you are unable to make up a team of 15, you can compete with as few as 8 students if you double up on certain roles. Please see FAQs as to how this works.


We offer video resources to help assist your team during preparation and demonstrate key advocacy skills.

Local heats may be coordinated by a local organiser who oversees the preparation and running of the heat in their local areas. These are voluntary roles taken on by local magistrates or legal advisors in the area. Where possible, they will try to offer some support in the form of either a court visit or a liaison magistrate. Volunteers will not go through the case itself or help with building arguments. Please note that provision of additional support in terms of a court visit or liaison magistrate is not guaranteed, is subject to availability and must be organised by you and the local organiser for your heat.

We send out a monthly school newsletter outlining the preparation stage you need to focus on with your team each month and highlight any additional support available. This is sent each mid-month from the closing date of applications.

The Mock Trials team at Young Citizens is available throughout the process with phone or email assistance to provide support from the application stage, preparation and post-trial queries.


We are unable to provide support for travel and accommodation to any heats, including regional heats. Please ensure that you have considered the cost implications of entering the competition before applying.


Each local heat consists of two rounds in which teams will argue one cases. In Round 1, every team will argue both on behalf of the prosecution OR the defence. In Round 2, all teams argue the opposite side. In heats with uneven numbers, there may be a Round 3 to accommodate all schools in which case some teams may need to sit out during various rounds.

The highest scoring team/s from the local heat will proceed to the regional heat for their area where they will compete using a different case.


Each participating student is given a score out of ten for their performance by up to three judges. There is also a team score for each round, which is out of ten. The scoring is based on criteria such as clarity, quality of arguments, accuracy, non-reliance on notes and timekeeping. Judges’ decisions are always final and cannot be appealed.

The verdict of the trial (guilty or not guilty) is decided by the magistrates, but has no relevance to the scoring and therefore progression in the competition.


As some judges will naturally mark higher or lower than others, it is not necessarily the team with the highest number of marks overall that will win.

Therefore, we use a scoring ladder, as follows:

  1. Highest number of trial wins – two or more judge’s award higher marks to a team in each round wins.
  2. Highest number of individual wins (with highest trial wins) – out of a maximum of 6 judges across two rounds, the team with the highest number of wins by individual judges wins.
  3. Highest overall points’ difference (with highest trial wins and individual wins) – where the overall points are added for each school and the difference is calculated. The team with the highest points’ difference wins.
  4. Overall team performance (with highest trial wins, individual wins and highest overall points difference) – where the overall team score is added up across all judges in both rounds, the team with the highest team performance wins.




See FAQs for quick answers to common questions and see timeline & locations for dates and heat venues. If you have any questions about our Mock Trial Competitions, email us or call us at 020 7566 4141.

Please see terms and conditions for further details.

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