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Henry V on trial: Will the king get away with murder in front of a 21st century court?

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Students put Shakespeare’s famous King Henry V on trial at the Royal Courts of Justice for the crime of aggression and the war crime of wilful killing.  

A-Level students from Uxbridge High School, Barnhill Community High School and Guru Nanak Sikh Academy took part in a three-day law and theatre-based project – run by partners Brunel University London, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the National Justice Museum (the education wing of the Royal Courts of Justice). 

 This creative project, which has now run for two consecutive years, teaches students from under-represented backgrounds the ins and outs of law and encourages engagement with future education. Throughout the process, students learn about courtroom proceedings, the progression of legal policy through history and attend a performance of the relevant play at the Globe Theatre, this year being Henry V, to learn about their defendant. 

“Brunel Law School is delighted to be involved in this unique widening access project which provides school students with the opportunity to experience first-hand the worlds of law, literature and university education. We hope that the project will encourage their aspirations to become realities,” said Dr Adrienne Barnett, a Senior Lecturer in Law at Brunel Law School, who was heavily involved in the project.  

Throughout the three days, the students: 

  • Viewed Shakespeare's play ‘Henry V’ at the magnificent Globe Theatre on day one and participated in lectures and workshops at the Globe.
  • Participated in workshops which deconstructed cross-examining techniques, civil and criminal proceedings and trial skills, run by Dr Adrienne Barnett and Ms Deborah Chay of Brunel Law School. Day two also included a presentation on war crimes given by Dr Patricia Hobbs, an expert in international criminal law. 
  • Prepared for the trial of Henry V on day three, with the court proceedings taking place that afternoon at the Royal Courts of Justice. 

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“I really enjoyed it and felt privileged to be able to take part,” said one of the students. “It strengthened my desire to study law and definitely taught me skills I can use both in academic environments and in real life too. Thank you so much!”  

Another student added“The sense of support and community at Brunel is phenomenal. They have the facilities I’d expect any great law school to have.” 

The students were well prepared by the process and grew in confidence as the days progressed. Gloria Cheng, Widening Access Officer at Brunel, hopes the project “continues to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to consider university and realise their own potential”. 

In the words of Henry V, “All things are ready, if our mind be so.” 

And what was King Henry V’s fate? After a thrilling day in the courtroom, in which the students played the roles of defendant, witnesses, barristers, judge and jury, Henry V was found guilty of both crimes by majority verdicts. 

Reported by:

Simone McNichols-Thomas, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 265219
simone.mcnichols-thomas@brunel.ac.uk