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COPFS looks to the future criminal justice workforce

COPFS is working with schools on new teaching materials to encourage young people to consider future careers in criminal justice.

The move follows a successful cross-justice event led by COPFS for four North Lanarkshire schools at the Scottish Police College, Tulliallan in September.

The pupils - from Bellshill Academy, Cardinal Newman High School, Uddingston Grammar and Our Lady’s High School – were invited to Police Scotland’s HQ at Tulliallan on 19 and 20 September.

The event aimed to give the pupils an insight into the range of careers in criminal justice - as well as an overview of investigation, detection, case preparation and the trial process itself.  It followed up on previous work with North Lanarkshire schools to produce the ‘Them and Us’ video in 2012.

COPFS Equality champion Ruth McQuaid, a former pupil of Bellshill Academy, launched the event and she emphasised the wide range of career opportunities in criminal justice.

“There should be no barriers to pursuing careers in criminal justice, to the very top – regardless of your gender, class, ethnic background, sexual orientation or disability,” she said.

“Young people should not create self-imposed barriers due to a lack of confidence in their abilities. All the agencies in criminal justice are committed to ensuring equal opportunities.”

Pupils then met a real life cast of professionals who would attend at the locus of a homicide. Moira Orr head of COPFS High Court Division was joined by professionals in the police, forensic and fire services - and Flint the fire dog. The pupils also had the opportunity to try on forensic suits and have their fingerprints taken.

The Lord Advocate, Frank Mulholland QC, a former Lanarkshire pupil from St Columba’s High school, Coatbridge, gave the pupils a fascinating overview of the HMA v Peter Tobin investigation.

Solicitor Stephen Biggam and Donna Murphy from the Scottish Legal Aid Board gave an insight into criminal defence; while Gill Short offered the Children’s Reporter perspective and Andy Brown from the Scottish Prison Service described the reality of life behind bars.

David McCallum from COPFS then provided a behind the scenes look at the role of a precognition officer preparing the Crown case for trial. During breaks the pupils were invited to visit the COPFS stall where they received careers information from David Casey and Marlene McCaw.

Selected pupils were sworn in as jurors by Sheriff Clerk Depute Laura McGeary from the Scottish Court Service for a mock trial, while Alex Prentice QC, Principal Advocate Depute, and Frances McMenamin, QC, defence counsel gave their insights into the opposing sides.

The pupils had a chance to try on Frances’ silk gown and wig before hearing the final summing up from their own local court reporter, Mike McQuaid, Deputy Editor of the Bellshill Speaker and Motherwell Times.

Ann Munroe, head-teacher of Bellshill Academy, described the event as “inspirational” and thanked all those who had been involved in providing this opportunity for the pupils.

COPFS is now working with teaching staff to produce resources to allow other pupils access to this unique learning experience.