Supreme Court debate day On the 2nd of March 2021, a group of about twenty 6ᵗʰ form students were lucky enough to be able to participate in the Supreme Court Debate day organised by Ms Kenny from the English department. The event started promptly at 10 am where our friendly and outgoing host, Simon, made us all feel welcome and formally introduced the debate topic which we had all eagerly been reading about: “should you be allowed to deny a service or assistance on the grounds of your religious beliefs?” We had already been split into three teams; the judges, the “For” team and the “Against” team. After the introductory call, each team broke off into separate virtual meeting rooms where we were greeted and then coached by a Supreme Court Lawyer.
“Once in the separate rooms we had 1 hour (which flew by!) to figure out what our main argument would be and make sure we had sturdy evidence to back it up. Having a lawyer to work through the case with us was incredibly useful as I felt they got as much out of us as possible, showing us how to use the finer details of the cases and making sure we were as ready as possible for the questions from the judges. Once we’d decided the structure of our argument and the order that our team would speak in, we had a half an hour break to go over our points and perhaps write some more notes for ourselves or a short speech in some cases. We then re-joined the main call as it was time for the debate! Public speaking is always a little scary but doing a debate via teams was more nerve wracking than I had anticipated, especially with the hindrance of not being able to communicate with your team during the debate. However, it ran very smoothly and everyone put forward some great points.”
“In the Judges team, Camilla pushed us to consider both sides of the argument before fine tuning our language skills in order to deliver the questions for either side in a precise and intellectually challenging manner. It was amazing to see how careful choice of phrasing could completely change the delivery of the question, turning it from a mild mannered, easy to answer question into a demanding “killer” question. After our individual team workshops, we joined together once again for the main event: the debate! With the “For” side starting the debate arguing that you should be allowed to deny a service based on your religious beliefs, everyone, especially us as judges, listened attentively to every word. Strong arguments were put forward and the way the “For” side dealt with our provocative questions was impressive; a real feat of on the spot thinking. Next, the “Against” side followed with equally convincing arguments which were put forward and elaborated on by the whole team in a fast, rhythmic manner with good use of legal precedent.”
After the debate, the judges carefully considered the work of both teams before returning to the main virtual room and coming down on the side of the team against the motion. They agreed that you should NOT be allowed to deny a service or assistance based on your religious beliefs. This was due to a clear, concise and convincing defence, but testified that it was very close due to the high quality of arguments on both sides. Overall, working with the Supreme Court was an extremely enjoyable experience that gave us an interesting insight into how professional lawyers work, especially through the one hour preparation sessions we had and a bonus Q&A at the end. We would like to thank Ms Kenny and the Supreme Court for organising such an enjoyable and informative event.