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Law beyond the books – students witness Court of Appeal Hearing

"I welcomed their insights into their own lives as well as issues inherent in the system."

For any law student, the prospect of experiencing a real-life court hearing is exciting and affords a unique insight into the profession they pursue.

In June, the Supreme Court of Appeal opened its doors to a number of Deakin law students, inviting them to observe a rare Court of Appeal hearing against the conviction of a person charged with offences, including aggravated burglary, assault and criminal damage.

While the hearing itself provided valuable insights into the day-to-day court proceedings, students learnt even more about their area of interest by speaking candidly with the judges before and after the sitting.

Find out what our students gained from this real-life experience:

‘I thought that the opportunity to see how three highly regarded judges deliberate was fantastic, as well as getting an insight into the appeal process. Seeing how the barristers presented their arguments and progressively lead the judges to their main points was also very interesting.’ – ANDREW THOMAS FAY

‘For me it was a highly valuable experience that has afforded me a great insight into the day-to-day practice of law. I found it especially insightful heading into T2 Criminal Law. I was fascinated with the process, and pleasantly surprised by the candour of the judges in their discussions before and after the hearing.’ – LIZ WALLACE

‘I found today really informative and helpful as it related, on a lot of topics, to Criminal Procedure which I am currently studying this trimester. I value the opportunity to be able to listen to the three judges, both prior to and following the hearing and hearing their input, thoughts, opinions and 'take' on things. It was great to see how the appellate system differs to a trial.’ – CRYSTAL O'MALLEY

‘I found the experience a very enjoyable and informative one. Physically being in the courtroom and witnessing the court procedures first-hand was great to put into perspective a legal life beyond university. I had some assumptions about how I thought things would be, such as the level of formality in a Supreme Court setting, however I found it to be much more informal with the judges asking a lot of questions to fully understand the submissions being made. It was great to see the judges in their robes and wigs too.  It was a good experience beyond reading books and legislation.’ – OLIVIA MEAGHER

‘It was a very interesting insight into the system; especially due to the fact that I have only had exposure to the Magistrates’ Court and County Court. I personally found the Court of Appeal case in this instance a lot less adversarial and the justices were more forthcoming in assisting the barristers to formulate and articulate their arguments. I noticed the justices maintained an excellent ability to keep the arguments on course and clarify issues where required. For the most part there also appeared to be much less reliance on precedent (I do remember reading a case along the same lines as this one) and no meaningful mention of any statute for the matter. I'm guessing perhaps because this is argument is struck on well-founded principles already contested in the courts a number of times.

Question time with the justices was also fantastic and they really demonstrated a keen interest in answering any of our questions. I agreed with one comment in the sense that the traditional dress creates a divide between the decision maker and the person themselves when they walk out of court. I think we were very lucky to have a senior panel of Justices and I welcomed their insights into their own lives as well as existing issues inherent in the system.’ – ELLIOTT MANN

‘I sincerely appreciate the learning opportunity this experience provided. Particularly enlightening for me were the Honourable Justices’ informal, candid insights and opinions of practicalities of the system. I really appreciate their time, especially cognisant of the time-pressures in the professions to which they spoke.’ – MARY MCCAULEY

‘I thought the event was an excellent opportunity for students to watch first-hand an appeals case from start to “finish”. It is one thing to participate or attend a Moot, but it is great to have the “in person” contact experience to gain an understanding of the legal world we read about all the time, brought into perspective in "the real world".’ – JOSHUA LIM

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