Friday Headlines

the weekly newsletter from Dr Ruth Weeks, Headmistress

Sociologists play judge and jury

23 March 2018

After getting through a series of daunting security procedures, seven A Level Sociology girls excitedly started their trip to Birmingham Magistrates Court. Although becoming quite a derelict old building, the girls were in awe at the beautiful architecture inside the building where once upon a time sentences for capital punishment were delivered. Currently studying the topic of ‘Crime and Deviance’, this experience gave the girls an opportunity to understand the process a person will go through for minor offences such as theft, or being drunk and disorderly. However, many of the girls were eager to sit in a crown court after their thirst for the topic grew more and more throughout the day.

Firstly, we observed a case about a homophobic assault and then discussed and gave our own strong opinions on afterwards. A more interesting case followed which the court usher said they don’t get often. This second case was of a young man being drunk and disorderly on a plane from Jamaica; as the court official read out the very long list of offences he committed on the plane, the girls couldn’t help but find it amusing that the arguments, which led to witnesses describing him as ‘the worst passenger they’ve had in 27 years’, all seemed to arise over his lack of leg room… However, it could have been argued (by the girls) that the majority of the alcohol consumed was provided for him by the airline, so are they not also at fault? Of course we were not the ones deciding the punishment - unfortunately for some, who stated they are now considering a career in law after this day in court!

Sadly, that was all we had time to watch but we gained a better understanding of some of the questions asked in A Level Sociology: Is the criminal justice fair? Is the criminal justice system biased towards one specific group in society? Is it true that judges and magistrates, who are predominantly white middle-class males, hold stereotypical views?

Maddie O’Donnell, Year 13

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