Civic leaders, teachers and local charities joined the High Sheriff Sarah Taylor at Modern Art Oxford last week to celebrate the Getting Court project, which gives disengaged school pupils a new outlook by educating them about the criminal justice system.
The Getting Court project is an initiative of Tom Birch Reynardson, who was High Sheriff of Oxfordshire in 2015. Tom linked up with Oxford Crown Court and local schools to offer the chance for selected pupils to attend court cases, undertake background research and speak personally to the judges ruling on the cases. Judge Ian Pringle, who spoke at the recent event, is a particular champion of the project. He described how he and the other judges wanted the teenagers to understand not just the serious consequences of anti-social behaviour and crime, but that the criminal justice system is here to protect them and their friends and families. The project has had a marked effect on the teenagers who have taken part.
The celebration of the Getting Court project on 1st March 2017 was hosted by Modern Art Oxford gallery in the city centre, with the opportunity to privately visit Lubaina Himid’s Invisible Strategies exhibition.
Guests at the event heard from Tom about how he set up the project and is continuing to support it beyond his High Sheriff’s year, with the help of a small amount of fundraising, and the continued support of local schools, especially Gosford Hill School in Kidlington, whose students have designed the new Getting Court website www.gettingcourt.org. Current High Sheriff Sarah Taylor strongly endorsed the project, and Judge Ian Pringle described his involvement with it as “the best decision I have ever made in my post as Judge”. He went on to say that the students he had met posed many pertinent questions, but that he is also often asked “Why do you wear that wig?”!
The highlight of the evening was hearing from some of the students who have taken part, and their teachers. Aisha from Oxford Spires Academy said she was interested to see how the criminal justice system is protecting society, as well as being inspired by the project to consider a career in law. A teacher from John Mason School in Abingdon accompanied student Josh, describing his transformation from class troublemaker to model pupil following his participation in Getting Court. Josh himself told of how affected he was by seeing a case involving a drunken fist fight, which made him resolve not to end up on the wrong side of the law himself. Josh told the assembled company that “the hardest thing about making this change was convincing other people in school that I wanted to be the good guy. The teachers and classmates still saw me as a troublemaker and I had to work hard to persuade them that I wanted to be helpful and hardworking instead.”
Getting Court is a named fund held and managed by Oxfordshire Community Foundation. To donate, please contact us.