The Association of CSPE Teachers (ACT)

Supporting Citizenship Education in Ireland

Home News Membership Resources Projects
Articles Photos Calendar Links Contact


Going to Court in Enniscorthy
by Brendan Nee, Enniscorthy Vocational College, Co. Wexford.

The following project was undertaken by a group of first year students in the Enniscorthy Vocational College. The idea of visiting the District Court arose when one of the group had to appear in court because of an incident which had taken place the year before. The incident in question became the focus of much debate among the student in my C.S.P.E. class. We decided that perhaps it would be a good idea to visit the District Court and observe proceedings.
Initially, we divided the students into groups of four and decided on certain tasks. One group visited the local Garda Station to liaise with a garda who provided information on the persons involved with the work of the court. This information was relayed back to the classroom and work commenced making formal contact in writing with those to whom we wished to speak. One group contacted Judge O Buachalla explaining that it was our intention to visit the court and observe proceedings as part of a C.S.P.E. project. Another group contacted a solicitor requesting information on his role in court proceedings. Others in the class invited our garda contact to the school to discuss the work of the Garda investigating crime, collecting all the relevant information/evidence and presenting the evidence in order to secure a successful prosecution in court.
On the Ban Garda's arrival at the college she was met by another group of students who formally introduced her to the class, invited questions from the floor and thanked her for her co-operation. Letters were also written to the Welfare Officer and Court Clerk explaining our project and requesting information. There were a number of cases listed on the day we visited the Court. Students observed how cases were called; how Gardai presented evidence to the Judge, how solicitors made submissions on behalf of their clients; how the Justice requested additional information before passing sentence or adjourned a case if appropriate.
The students enjoyed the experience of the project. All agreed that the defendants were treated fairly. Some were quite shocked to see one defendant who was in handcuffs and received a custodial sentence. They were surprised that there were so many individuals involved in the workings of the Court and appreciated the work done by Gardaí in assembling evidence and presenting it in court. We set out to ensure that each member of the class would perform some particular function in the project e.g. initial contact and interview with Ban Garda, formal letters requesting information, meeting the Ban Garda on her arrival in the College, introducing her to the class, thank her for her co-operation.
There was general approval that a Court has an important function in our community and that the public can observe how justice is dispensed. Some students expressed a wish to join An Garda Siochána, however, a few others thought a solicitors job easier and could see themselves in that role in the future.