Published: 04 April 2023

Improving access to the law

The School of Law is passionate about improving access to justice and access to the legal profession, both for its students and for the wider community. The School hosts frequent events and opportunities for our students to practise their legal skills and also invites local secondary school pupils for them to find out more about what the law entails. 

Participants in the court proceedings to coincide with Knife Angel exhibition, March 2023

As part of our ambition to demystify the role played by lawyers in addressing the consequences of violent crime, we welcomed the High Sheriff of Surrey, His Honour Christopher Critchlow DL, and Resident Judge of Guildford Crown Court, HHJ Fraser MVO DL, to the University of Surrey's Court of the Future to take part in a mock sentencing hearing. We hosted this event on 21 March to coincide with the visit of the Knife Angel, the national monument for anti-aggression to Guildford Cathedral. We were joined in the public gallery by several groups of secondary school pupils.  

General view of Knife Angel court proceedings

In preparation for the event, Surrey law students received an advocacy masterclass from the High Sheriff. On the day, current and former Surrey law students presented the facts and offered pleas in mitigation in the sentencing of four defendants in fictional – but realistic – cases of violence involving possession and use of knives, one punch manslaughter and domestic abuse. Surrey students, ably assisted by an audience member from a local secondary school, also took on roles as defendants and the Court Clerk.  

The defendants were then sentenced by HHJ Fraser in accordance with the official sentencing guidelines. This way, our audience saw first-hand the way in which sentencing hearings are conducted, and were able to meet both judges afterwards to ask questions.  

Participant in Knife Angel Court of the Future proceedings

Dr Katy Peters of the School of Law commented that “the scenarios presented a powerful illustration of the catastrophic impact which violent and thoughtless actions can have on both the victims of crime, and those whose actions cause harm, injury and death.” 

It is hoped that the Knife Angel’s visit to Guildford Cathedral will have a long-lasting legacy. Recordings from the Court of the Future are being used to create a workshop which can be shared with local schools through the University’s Widening Participation and Outreach programmes. 

Dr Peters adds: “The legal world is made richer and more effective when the lawyers in it come from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences. Relationships such as those with Judge Critchlow and Judge Fraser are hugely important, and we are very grateful to them for their continued support and encouragement.” 

Close up of Knife Angel

The Knife Angel  

The courtroom drama was part of a series of events taking place to support the Knife Angel, national monument for anti-aggression, which is being displayed at Guildford Cathedral during March 2023. Created by sculptor Alfie Bradley, the towering 27ft tall Knife Angel is constructed from 100,000 confiscated knives received from 43 police forces across the UK. It is designed to be both a memorial and a catalyst for change. 

The Knife Angel’s singular objective is to bring about social change by educating children, young people and adults about the harmful effects that violent behaviour has on communities all across our nation. 

The moving and powerful  #KnifeAngel is at Guildford Cathedral until the end of March. 


To find out more about the School of Law, follow this link 

To find out more about our Widening Participation and Outreach programmes, please visit this link.  

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