PUPILS whose school was wrecked by vandals were given the opportunity to see what it would be like to put the culprits on trial.

The ten to 11 year olds from Catchgate Primary School even went to Con-sett Magistrates Court so they could stage the mock trial in a realistic setting.

The project - which the children have been working on for weeks - is part of the school's response to a Government demand for school's to encourage children to become better citizens when they grow older.

TeacherPatRiddell chose criminal damage as one of two trials the pupils enacted because it was relevant to the children.

Earlier this month the school had to be closed down for a day after vandals broke the boiler.

Governors are now considering boarding up all the windows during the summer holidays.

Pat Riddell said the youngsters have learned a lot about how the law works from the project.

She said: "They've really enjoyed themselves with this one but they've also taken a lot from it. They've been really interested, especially as we've been able to make it more real for them."

Consett magistrate John Clark talked to the children about how the operation works.

He said: "At first they thought we wear wigs and have the power to have people hanged and things like that. But we soon got down to the reality of it and I think they learned a lot."

Other youngsters from across north Durham are also taking part in mock trials.

About 25 members of youth clubs from East Durham took part in a mock trial at Durham as part of Durham County Council's Respect crime education programme, and children from Neville's Cross Primary School in Durham City also staged a mock trial at the court.

The youngsters got the chance to act out the roles of court officials including prosecuting solicitors, def-ence lawyers, magistrates, clerk to the court and of course the defendant. One of them also took down the evidence as court reporter.