Idea starters for a visit to the courts

What can students do prior to a court visit?

  • Compile a list of words, ranging from A-Z that have relevance to courts. Compile a class list to determine ‘known’ and ‘unknowns’. [Refer to the list post-visit to check new learning's]
  • List 10 things that could happen in a court.
  • Complete the following statements:

A court is like a…
Courts are fair when…

  • If you were hired to build a new court in South Australia, where would you locate it?
  • Debate whether courts need to be in a special building or location.
  • List who you might find in a court. Why do you think they are there? Imagine you are one of those people and describe the court from your perspective.
  • Take a virtual tour at www.courts.sa.gov.au
  • Find 10 interesting facts about courts.
  • Find where South Australia’s courts are located.

Discuss [before and after a visit]

  • Is the rate of crime on the rise?
  • Should particular crimes have set penalties?
  • Should a homeowner be responsible for a burglar who injures him/herself while trying to get out?
  • What is the major cause of crime today?
  • Civil collection encourages mediation as a first option.  Do you think mediation should be used more widely?
  • Whose court is it?

What can students do after a court visit?

  • Conduct a mock Magistrates Court hearing, assigning students to roles as court staff and as witness, a victim of a crime, parents of a victim, an accused person. [Scenarios can be downloaded from the Community > For Schools section at www.courts.sa.gov.au ] The class can discuss penalty or someone can act as the magistrate and decide.
  • Visit www.courts.sa.gov.au and find
The names of different courts
The number of magistrates [Magistrates Court], judges [District Court] and justices [Supreme Court] How many of them are female?
The retiring age for magistrates, judges and justices [Does it differ for each? Why? Given the current laws in relation to discrimination make it unlawful to discriminate against people on the basis of their age, should there be a retiring age?]
How are judges given their jobs?
The difference between matters heard in a Magistrates Court, District Court and Supreme Court.
Where and why juries are used.
What do judges wear in different courts? [Research why]
The meaning and significance of emblems the walls of courthouses or courtrooms

Click on SOUTH AUSTRALIA to view current laws on a range of topics. Select one and compare the law in South Australia to other states. Should the law be change? How?

  • Comment on the range of people you saw in court. In what ways did they differ from or meet with your expectations?
  • Research the term ‘restorative justice’. In what ways might this be a better option to ‘mandatory sentencing’. [Restorative justice is an approach that tries to sort out conflict and repair harm. Restorative justice offers victims a chance to tell the offender directly how they have been affected by the crime, in a safe environment; victims can make suggestions about what could be done to make amends; offenders can see the “human side” of the offence; offenders can have a say in what they can do genuinely to make amends; and stand a better chance of re-integration to society.]
  • Research the inquisitorial system. What features of this system are different to the adversarial trial system? [use a Venn Diagram to show results] Give your preference with reasons why you might favour one system over another.
  • What are Specialist or Problem solving courts? Go to www.courts.sa.gov.au [In the Community > For Schools > Resources section view the Information Kit or view the Aboriginal Court video]. Imagine you are a magistrate or judge and argue a case for other specialist courts including remarks about how they should operate.
  • From a picture of a courtroom scene [see Fact sheet 2 on the courts web-site] make generalisations about its size, colour, uses, materials used, various parts and shape. Then complete the following….”All courts have….”
  • Describe symbols and features inside a courtroom that make it different from any other place [e.g. Wig, robes, bench…]
  • Find an article in the print media about a matter proceeding through the courts. Get students to identify the heading, sub-headings and repeated use of any terms. Identify or make up a topic sentence for the article, underline the relevant sentences and look for general terms to replace individual words such as the days of the week. Identify statements of fact and statements of opinion in the article.
  • Have students complete the following either in groups or on their own and present to the class as a play, talk or slide presentation; “If there were no courts in South Australia…”
  • Create a closed exercise for students to complete related to their court visit.
  • Discuss the proposition: ‘All people are treated equally in a court”.

How can I use the ‘General Capabilities at the courts? 

Critical and creative thinking
 
[Using modes of thinking to analysing current justice issues and legal systems e.g. De Bonos’ hats, PMI Charts…]

 


Will free access to heroin remove or lower the crime rate?

Should parents be made accountable for the actions of their children?

Should the age of majority be lowered such that 16-year-olds will be treated as adults in relation to crimes committed?

Should prostitution be legal?

Should euthanasia be legal?

Should a restorative approach to offending and crime be used more widely?

Compare the adversarial system to the inquisitorial system of trial?

Find out about or create models of alternative dispute resolution without going to a court e.g. Mediation.

Justify the use of juries. Should jurors be paid or trained for their service?

e.g. Using De Bono’s ‘Thinking Hats” model explore any of the above issues.

Use a PMI model [pluses, minuses and indifferent] to explore the above.

Find an article in the newspaper about a court case. Imagine you are a research writer for the paper covering public opinion about the case. Create questions from different perspectives eg. Rich, poor, old young…

Personal and social competence/Intercultural understanding
 
[How courts cater for ourselves, others and relationships.]

 


From a range of perspectives such as age, gender, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, other cultures, rural and remote, income and job type, consider:

The groups that use courts

The level of comfort for each in the court setting and factors affecting this

The values represented in courts

Your stereotype of a typical court-user

The court’s stereotype of a typical court-user

Imagine how prior experience may shape attitudes to court

Describe what people wear in court? Why?

How do courts impact on victims?

 
Ethical understanding
 
[The courts are a complex system that we can shape and influence. Consider the role you can play in shaping and influencing the way courts operate.]

 

 

How might a court affect some-one’s relationship with another person?

Think about social problems and issues a court may deal with

How can the community play a role in resolving problems?

Is our system dependent on other models of justice?

Consider what issues are common and different for people in courts throughout the world

Why does a court room look like it does? Can you imagine a situation where it may need to look totally different?

Investigate what court rooms throughout the world or in other buildings look like and compare your findings with others

Should people be allowed to watch others in court?

Identify a situation where this is not allowed and explain why

In what ways are courts ethical and their processes directed at the ‘common good’ for society?

 
Literacy
 
[Effective communication is important in courts and can take a variety of forms]
 

 

Consider the language used in a court. How could the language be changed to achieve the same or better outcomes?

Make a list of the different types of communication modes used in court

How does the court provide for people whose first language is not English?

Create an alphabet or glossary of court words. [See also ‘Glossary’ on the Courts’ website]

Arrange a debate about a court-related issue.

Tell the class about how information is communicated to the various participants in a court case

Using images obtained from a workshop with the education officer and from the courts precinct outside the court building(s) prepare a power-point presentation for visitors to courts to inform them about what thewy might discover

Explain court language to another person

Create a brochure about courts

Create a language guide for you school SRC

Think of better ways to communicate information to a magistrate, judge or justice

Describe the different ways individuals in different roles, communicate in courts

 
 
Numeracy

Gather statistics about court matters – frequency, type, outcome

Compare this to past data to inform knowledge of trends, predict future trends and appreciate cause and effect

Consider the design of court buildings and court rooms

Collect data about the duration of different courts and court matters to inform decisions about planning, resourcing and change

 
 
Other activities using the courts

Follow a case

Investigate careers in courts

Explore the difference between rights and responsibilities

Study the architecture of court buildings

Research the history of …

Consider the use of space in court rooms in court buildings

The maths of courts – fines, statistics, geometry

What type of public art should be in court buildings?

What have courts done to be inclusive of Aboriginal perspectives?

The Environment Resources and Development Court

What courts are mobile?

Design your own court or court precinct

Courts in the future – a virtual court?

Clothing – dress and uniform in courts

Security in courts – what and why?

Behind the scenes – administration

Cells and cell design – now and then

 
More ideas

Discuss the role of a court with respect to laws made by parliament

People come to courts for a range of reasons. Investigate four different reasons

Find out about new initiatives being tried today eg. Specialist courts

Compare the Australian system with that of another country

Imagine you had to report on the current system. What good and bad things might you report?

Having seen a court in operation, how would you change the way it works?

Think about any experiences you or your friends or family have had in courts. How might these shape your views of the court system?

Investigate some of the services attached to courts and their roles

Create your own design for a court

In a group investigate two careers in courts and compare findings

Make predictions about the future role of courts in society

Find evidence of the ‘invisible web of the law’ by walking around your neighbourhood or school

Consider the following strategies in engaging learners:

Make a list of five reasons for people to come to a court

Suggest two ways a court can operate to enhance community understanding of court processes

Argue a case for open v closed courts

Imagine yourself in any of the roles in the ‘Who’s who in a magistrates criminal hearing’ Fact sheet. Create your own resume designed to fill that role. [Include details of skills, knowledge and experience for each]

Recall two cases you saw in court. Record similarities and differences of each about:

The type of offence or case

Presentations by both sides to the court

Which version of the facts you believe and why

The outcome – Whether you agree or disagree? Whether or not it was fair and why?

 

This program for schools has been developed through a partnership between the Department for Education and Child Development (DECD) Outreach Education and the Adelaide Magistrates Court. Outreach Education is a team of seconded teachers based in public organisations.

 
 
South Australian Law Courts Education Program
© All Rights Reserved in the State of South Australia.  Adelaide 2012