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Shakespeare on Trial 2022

lecturer talking to class (2)

For the third year Brunel Law School London, Shakespeare’s Globe, National Justice Museum combined their resources to run the popular Shakespeare-on-Trial event. This year, students were focusing on The Tempest, a play about seeking revenge, power and ultimately forgiveness on a magical island where a crew of men find themselves shipwrecked.

Day One

Students from four Hillingdon secondary schools (Harlington School, Uxbridge High School, Park Academy West London and Rosedale College) participated in workshops delivered by colleagues at Shakespeare's Globe. They received a tour of the theatre and discussed what their initial thoughts were about the appearance of the Globe and the status of those who would go and watch plays.

The facilitator, Simon, then talked to students about The Tempest and broke down some of the key themes in the play. After the break the group went to the Sackler Studios and students participated in a character workshop, focusing on how voice and movement can portray feelings of power and control.

In the afternoon, students watched a matinee performance of The Tempest, delivered by the 2022 Globe Ensemble, featuring Brunel alumna Rachel Hannah Clarke, who played the spirit Ariel. Despite over two hours of standing and a little pouring of rain, students remained in good spirits and left for some well-earned rest and sitting down!

Day Two

Students spent a day at Brunel University London where they received sessions from Senior Lecturer Debbie Chay. She gave students an overview of how court proceedings work, the difference between civil and criminal procedures and Reader in Law Adrienne Barnett introduced students to the charge of Controlling and Coercive behaviour (Section 76 Serious Crime Act 2015)

After lunch, students had a second workshop with Debbie looking at how to prepare a criminal law case and the importance of paying attention to detail. They worked well and engaged throughout, asking questions and discussing their thoughts on how context plays a big part in all decision making.

For the last part of the day, Neill Blundell, Partner and Head of Corporate Crime and Investigations Practice and Macfarlanes LLP joined for a Q&A session. He talked about his journey to Law, and how he nearly went down a route studying History at university before finally convincing his lecturers that he was a suitable candidate!

Neill has worked in different areas of law and encouraged students to experience many different things and to not be afraid of making mistakes. He also spoke about how enthusiasm goes a long way and is noticed by senior leaders within the workplace!

Day Three

Students spent the day at the Royal Courts of Justice and were given a tour of the building from Louise, Learning Officer at the National Justice Museum.

The group then settled in a courtroom used in a court of appeal and Louise tested students with their knowledge of the UK legal system (students did not disappoint)!

It was then time to assign roles for everyone, including Gurpreet and I who assumed roles on the jury, and students spent time completing activities and writing up statements or questions depending on their role.

After lunch it was showtime! Bound with an order of proceedings, all stood up for the judge before listening intently to the prosecution and defence who were cross examining witnesses.

The prosecution asked hard hitting questions, really nailing down the charge of Controlling and Coercive Behaviour from Prospero to various characters, and the defence really pulled on the heartstrings of the jury with support from some additional character witnesses.

The jury vacated the room and discussed intently on whether Prospero committed the crime based on the four principles:

  1. The defendant has repeatedly or continuously engaged in behaviour towards another person that is controlling or coercive
  2. At the time of the behaviour, the defendant and the victim are personally connected
  3. The behaviour has a serious effect on the victim
  4. The defendant knows or ought to know that the behaviour will have a serious effect on the victim

Although the jury were sure that the prosecution had shown Prospero meeting the first two principles, it was not deemed ‘’beyond all reasonable doubt’ that their behaviour had a serious effect on Miranda, and therefore the jury had to acquit the defendant and he walked free.

However, should Prospero be found guilty, our judge would have deemed his sentence to be lower than the maximum sentence due to the mitigating circumstances of being stranded on the island for so many years and having Miranda’s best interests at heart.

Students performed exceptionally well and worked hard to pull it all together. After the trial, students were advised that they would be allowed to sit in any live trials taking place in the court.


Thank you to Charlotte and Ewan at Shakespeare's Globe for organising day one and to Simon for running the interactive sessions with students.

Thank you to Debbie and Adrienne for running the sessions at Brunel University London, to Neill and Professor Arad Reisberg, Head of Brunel Law School and Professor of Corporate Law and Finance for joining us on day two and speaking to students.

Thank you to Lizzie from the National Justice Museum for organising day three and to Louise for delivering the session and being the most efficient court clerk. Final thank you to the Widening Access department for funding this event, and to Gurpreet Chana for supporting me with this event!