I've been to court several times over the years but my most memorable trip by far was when I dragged mini-me to the Royal Courts of Justice, which had opened its doors as part of an annual 'Open House London' event, two years ago. We took part in a historical murder trial, toured the cells, got handcuffed by police and locked in a prison van. Mini-me (and I) loved it.
So I was not surprised to learn this week that Croydon Law Courts has been inundated with requests from schools wanting to visit following the success of its last open day, which was attended by 1,500 people. The judiciary said the top attraction was the sniffer dogs and more than 400 people toured the cells. The mock trials were also popular, where year 12 students from four schools presented cases for the prosecution and defence in a hypothetical scenario involving a street robbery of a mobile phone.
The court received 238 feedback forms. Comments included 'do this every year', 'a real eye-opener' and 'a great opportunity to ask judges questions'. Two-thirds of people said the day had been excellent. More importantly: 220 people said they had a better understanding of the criminal justice system; 160 people understood the civil family justice system better.
Her Honour Judge Alice Robinson, resident judge at Croydon, says 90 students from five schools have visited since the open day. Two more will visit next month and the court has been receiving enquiries, including from jurors who are teachers.
Lewes Crown Court is hosting an open day on 14 September while Taunton Combined Court will be welcoming adults and children on 12 October. The Supreme Court and RCJ are taking part in next month's Open House London weekend.
I don't know how hard it is to arrange an open day, but it would be great to see more courts open up their doors on a regular basis. Patting a police sniffer dog on a Saturday, not appearing before a judge on a weekday, should be how everyone's public legal education begins (if my pitch for a show on CBBC hasn't taken off yet).