Saturday, 25 July 2015
Inner Temple Student Residential Weekend- Preventable Deaths: Life in the Hands of the State, Does it Really Care?
On a sunny Friday afternoon in March 2015, I arrived at Cumberland Lodge, set within the beautiful grounds of Windsor Great Park. I attended Cumberland Lodge as one of my Inns annual residential weekends, held for student members of the Inn. The weekend was worth 3 of my 12 dining points which all BPTC students are required to complete before being called to the Bar of England and Wales.
The weekend was a fantastic opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with fellow BPTC students from different course providers across the country. It was also a relaxing and pleasant atmosphere to network with senior members of the bar and other professionals who had kindly given up their weekend to offer their expertise and support. During the weekend there were also opportunities to attend lectures with experienced and senior professionals involved in preventing and investigating deaths of prisoners in custody.
I have a keen interest in prisoner welfare as a Lay Observer, Independent Custody Visitor and Appropriate Adult. Therefore, I was very excited about attending this event from the moment I discovered that I had successfully secured a place to attend this residential weekend. This was prior to me discovering the details of the successful professionals that were in attendance. Professional speakers included Dame Anne Owers DBE (the chair of the IPCC), Helen Shaw (Co-Director of Inquest), Marin Casey (HM Coroner), Professor Keith Rix (Forensic Psychiatrist) and Lesley Thomas QC. We also had the opportunity to interact with members of the bench and several barristers.
On the Saturday afternoon members of the bar held an interactive mock trial/advocacy masterclass for students to observe. Student members of the Inn also participated in advocacy exercises daily, benefiting from advice from skilled barristers and lecturers. These sessions were particularly useful for BPTC students with upcoming advocacy assessments. I found the advocacy classes useful for building on my advocacy confidence when performing in front of people who I am unfamiliar with. At Bar School, you quickly build confidence when performing in front of your peers due to knowing each other. In fact, it must have been my lucky week as I was placed in the advocacy group judged by Lesley Thomas QC which meant that I dined in a group with him and his guest speakers. As someone who has dedicated the past few years to prisoner welfare, it felt like I had won the lottery sitting in the presence of the most senior campaigners for prisoner welfare. To suggest that the conversations were inspiring and thought provoking would be an understatement. I also found that Lesley was one of the most friendly but professional senior members of the legal profession that I have ever met. That is probably why he is held in such high regard throughout the legal profession and beyond. It was only last week that Dame Jocelyn Barrow praised Lesley's work during her speech at the 'Race Relations Act @ 50' conference.
In the daytime, there were breaks in our busy timetable to enjoy walking around the grounds and a chat over coffee and cake. In the evenings, we enjoyed dining in our groups, a few drinks in the bar and a game of pool in the basement of the lodge. On the Saturday evening, we were entertained by both students and benchers who took part in a tasteful but energetic talent competition, followed by karaoke. In fact, the atmosphere was so energetic and friendly on the Saturday evening that even a member of the bar staff decided to join in on the karaoke and entertained us with a few hits.
There was also an opportunity to attend The Royal Chapel for Sunday service where we were blessed with the presence of HRH Queen Elisabeth and The Duke of Edinburgh. It was very exciting to see HRH outside the chapel; her Majesty had a very positive aurora. I am not usually enthusiastic about attending church but on this occasion so many people were attending in hope of meeting the Queen, so I though it would be a nice experience. The service exceeded my expectations and was my most pleasant visits to church. I think it is very nice that the Queen allows visors of the grounds to attend The Royal Chapel, in her presence (subject to security clearance).
Although the weekend focused on discussing deaths in custody and developing our advocacy skills, there was plenty of time to unwind, network and make new friends. I have built new friendships with people who I may not have had an opportunity to have met if I had not have attended this weekend. Four months after this training weekend and I am still in contact with several people that I met that weekend and hope to meet up again soon.
The residential weekend at Cumberland Lodge was an amazing experience and I will forever cherish my memories of that weekend. In fact, I enjoyed the weekend so much that I wish the opportunity was available annually through my Inn. It was a very positive way to network and build positive relations in a relaxing but educational environment. I would like to thank Lesley Thomas QC and Inner Temple for organising an interesting and memorable weekend in friendly and knowledgeable company.
I hope my blog encourages all BPTC students to take advantage of the one-off opportunity of attending a residential weekend with their Inn, before being called to the bar.