A mock trial is an exercise in which participants recreate a real trial by taking on the roles of victims, prosecutors, defense lawyers, witnesses or police officers.
Each side puts forward its case, and the judge determines the verdict based on the evidence presented and the quality of the arguments.
Mock trials are widely used in different areas of law to simulate a variety of disputes, conflicts or cases, but they are particularly useful for criminal cases, including human trafficking.
Human trafficking is a complex crime that can take many forms. Therefore - even with the necessary legislation in place in many countries - judges, prosecutors, investigators and other actors often face difficulties in dealing with this crime.
It can be challenging to identify a case as trafficking or to distinguish it from other crimes. It can also be problematic to gather the evidence or to provide appropriate protection to victims.
Mock trials help professionals to better understand the intricacies of investigating, prosecuting and adjudicating trafficking cases, enhance their legal knowledge and practice courtroom skills, such as critical thinking and public speaking.
A mock trial involves several important steps:
Planning. In the beginning, the organizers carefully plan who will participate, how long the exercise will last, how to encourage cooperation between participants, and other steps.
Case selection. The organizers choose which case to use. It can be a real or fictitious case.
Theoretical presentations. The planners introduce the main theoretical issues so that the participants can analyze key concepts and elements of the case.
Introducing moderators and allocating roles. The organizers explain the ground rules and assign roles to the participants.
Preparing for the hearing. The participants prepare for their roles.
Mock trial hearing. The trial begins with opening statements when each side presents its case.
During direct examination, the parties introduce evidence through their witnesses. During cross-examination, they challenge the evidence presented by the opposing party’s witnesses.
The parties then make closing arguments, summarizing their case and trying to persuade the court.
At the end of the trial, the judge delivers a verdict.
Debriefing. The mock trial is followed by a debriefing session in which trainers and participants analyze the successes and shortcomings of the exercise.
Follow-up activities. The outcomes of the mock trial can be used to help discuss the gaps in the country’s law and practice with the relevant authorities.
In preparing for a mock human trafficking trial, organizers need to make a number of important decisions about participants and procedures.
Successful mock trials typically involve between 15 and 30 participants. These are usually investigators, prosecutors and judges, as well as national and international legal experts.
To make the training more effective, other actors can be invited, including immigration officials, border guards, labor inspectors and NGO representatives.
Inviting survivors of trafficking can be beneficial as they can advise the court on victim trauma and protection practices. However, this should be carefully considered to avoid causing harm.
The participants can use evidence, including photographs or printed documents, to add authenticity to the process.
Other key aspects that should be taken into account during the planning stage include the choice of case, the length of the trial or the selection of venue.
Having conducted around 30 mock trials in all regions of the world, involving more than 1,300 participants, UNODC has developed its own methodology for organizing such training.
To assist criminal justice professionals around the world in conducting mock trials and simulated investigations, UNODC has published a new manual focusing exclusively on human trafficking cases.
It is a step-by-step guide to help planners prepare and conduct a mock trial, covering all relevant aspects of the exercise and considering different cultures and legal systems.
The manual outlines the content of the mock trial, the main stages, the roles to be played, the tools to be used and the issues that may arise at each stage.
More information on the manual can be found here.
The manual has been developed with the support of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Department of State of the United States of America.