On February 26th I attended an IARS training session on police powers and the rights of young people in the local area.

Along with eight other young people I was educated in the value of being an informed member of society through the use of role-play and the studying of our criminal justice system.

The activities varied widely in style and content, and were all geared towards providing the young participants with a greater understanding of the basic workings of UK law, and the course of action to take in the event of being stopped and searched. The session started by examining the fundamentals and purpose of criminal law in society, and we were then tested in a quiz. This offered useful insights into the key differences between solicitors and barristers and helped to spark a debate on the amount of money, currently £280m, spent on custodial places for young people and whether this amount is justified.

The focus of the session’s second half was on equipping young people with a sufficient understanding of police powers, so that if one of us was to be stopped in the street by the police we would be capable of responding appropriately and responsibly. After analysing the technical language of the police’s code of conduct, the group was divided into role-play groups and asked to carry out mock stop-and-searches on each other. This exercise gave the session a more interactive dynamic and instilled the group with more confidence in the application of our new-found knowledge.  Finally, the group analysed some real-life cases to consolidate what we had learned throughout the day.

The day was invaluable in discovering the true value of being familiar with basic legal information. It highlighted to all participants just how unfamiliar we were with the subject, but by the end of the session we felt more empowered and assured of our own knowledge. Other members of the group also made the point about how informative the day had been, and how it had offered them a new perspective on the police; that they are not a force to resist but, with the right level of understanding, can be a force to work closely with to create a better society.

On a personal level, it was exciting to be involved in an exercise that challenged the stereotype of the relationship between young people and the police. Because of this, I would really recommend future sessions at IARS to any young people who want to expand their knowledge in legal areas, and anyone who is eager to share their opinions with a group of enthusiastic and motivated young people.

By Ben Hickey

IARS volunteer, aged 17