Humanities News 

Unit 3/4 Legal Studies Excursions

On Tuesday 28 February and Friday 3 March, the two Year 12 Legal Studies classes each spent a day at the Dandenong Magistrates’ Court to watch real Magistrate Court hearings and see the legal processes from the Legal Studies textbook, in real life. We had two different trips, so we have multiple perspectives of our trip.


Going into the courts, we had the idea that Magistrates’ were scary people with harsh judgements. Our assumption was that they did not have the best interests of the accused in mind, but we were proven very wrong. Something we had not expected were the interactions between the accused and the Magistrate; conversations about the potential courses of action as well as the Magistrate helping the accused understand the consequences of their actions in a kind way. The Magistrates did not try to give the harshest sentence, but rather they helped the accused have a second chance to prove they can be better. During the Q&A when the Magistrate was asked why they chose to have conversations with the accused, it was said that it often helps the accused to make more of a change in their life. Being told that they are trusted and want to be helped makes a bigger impact on the accused, assisting them in being able to make better choices in the future. 


The court environment was formal, and it was interesting to see how the knowledge we learnt in school is applied to real life. There were strict procedures and rules that were adhered to in the courts and being present there really emphasised to us, their contribution to the idea of justice. The court gave us an opportunity to apply the theory we had learnt in class to real life criminal justice matters.


 We were also lucky enough to have a mini Legal Studies Q & A session with one of the magistrates, between the hearings. Surprisingly, the Magistrate was quite pleased that there was a bunch of high school students in his courtroom and encouraged us to ask questions about the legal system and how the Magistrates’ court functions. We also had the opportunity to ask questions of a police prosecutor, a prison officer and a Victorian Legal Aid lawyer who gave us varying, but very interesting perspectives about the criminal justice system. It was particularly interesting hearing about the importance of building a rapport between clients and barristers, despite the often short time frame available. It helps us see a more personal side of the criminal justice system.


Towards the end of our visit, one of the Magistrates relayed to us his journey to becoming part of the justice system, as well as how his aspirations changed throughout the trajectory of his education. Hearing his insights on his work in the courts allowed us to view the system in a different light and understand how the system actually works.


A massive thank you to Ms Loel for supervising and looking after us on both excursion days.


By Avneet Pabla, Isabel George, Serena Shao and Sarah Idroos 

Unit 3/4 Legal Studies students