The Stride-Darnley Society met for a session in the Sixth Form Common Room on Tuesday, 3rd May, where three of our Lower Sixth students delivered excellent presentations.

The first subject, ‘Is witness testimony really reliable in criminal cases?’ was the choice of Libby R. Libby referred to several criminal cases where witness testimony was the main source of conviction of criminals. One in particular was that of Clarence Brandley, who was wrongly convicted of murder in Texas and spent nine years on Death Row in before being freed on appeal. The prosecution’s case was based entirely on circumstantial evidence and witness statements, as there was no physical evidence linking Brandley to the crime. Libby had obviously done tremendous research on this subject telling us how witnesses can be influenced, sometimes unwittingly, out of fear or for reward. In answer to a question as to whether witnesses should undertake lie detection or not, Libby explained that this would be far too costly!

Rachel S, a great supporter of Everton Football Club, chose to ask, ‘Is VAR (Video assistant referee) really necessary?’ Rachel explained that VAR is a system in football, which was introduced in England in 2018, and that it was designed to review decisions made by the field referee. We heard that there is much controversy over the fairness of it, but as fans watching on phones or other devices can see immediately when mistakes occur it seems logical to use it. Sometimes the wait for the decision is too long, and sometimes the question has to be asked, is it always necessary. It can, as Rachel demonstrated on the screen, introduce a great level of excitement, as the fans await the decision and in another video clip, in a match between Southampton and Spurs, a player was shown to be only 10cm over the line. However, Rachel concluded that whilst she thought VAR is a good thing to use there should be a time limit on how long the field referee should wait before moving the match on.

On 3rd May 2007 in Praia da Luz, Portugal, Madeleine McCann disappeared from the apartment where her family, from Britain, were spending their holiday. She has never been seen since. Maria S recalled the incident and the development of the case at the time. How witnesses declared they had seen a man carrying a child ‘awkwardly’ near the scene on that evening and DNA samples were found in a car hired by her parents three weeks after the alleged abduction.  The next year, Maria informed us, Gonçalo Amaral, the Portuguese Police Officer originally in charge of the case, was relieved of his duties following the release of a book about Madeleine’s disappearance, which was subsequently banned. Maria ended her presentation by asking us what we all thought and, as the case has recently been in the press again, we were all keen to express our views.

A fascinating evening and a wonderful chance for the three Sixth Formers to practise their public speaking, a skill which will be of great use to them in the future.

Senior School | 03/05/2022