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This article was published 17/4/2016 (1549 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
John Delacruz walked out of a Manitoba courtroom as a free kid on Sunday.
John was cleared of any "wrongdoing" along with a few fellow Grade 3 and 4 classmates from Frontenac School. The "accused" were alleged to have eaten a witch’s gingerbread cottage while lost in the forest.
John and his other co-defendants argued they had no choice but to eat the cottage, as it was a matter or survival because they were too afraid of the witch to ask her for help.
They were originally "charged" with wilful damage and mischief.
"It’s really good that I’m not guilty or anything," John said moments after the unanimous verdict was handed down by the jury, also made up by students.
Deliberations at the Manitoba Law Courts lasted less than a minute.
Of course, R. v. Hansel and Gretel was pure fiction. The students were given lines to read out in court and they had practised for about a month before their chance in front of Judge Robert Heinrichs on Sunday.
The mock trial was designed to give a selection of students from Frontenac a positive look-in when it comes to court proceedings.
"It was really fun and I was really honoured to get picked for the case," said Sarah Gauvin, who acted as the Crown attorney in the case. "They (Hansel and Gretel) won, but it was really fun."
"The hope is to have kids to have a better understanding of the legal system, that it’s not just what people see on TVs and in the movies," said Annette Horst, a Legal Aid staff lawyer helping with the students.
Students were chosen from across five classrooms at Frontenac.
"It was a chance for some of our students who really shine in our classrooms to come in and try a new challenge," said Sheila Cooper-Simon, a teacher at Frontenac.
"It gives them an experience for life, one they can take into the community."
The mock trials were a part of a bigger initiative on Law Day, a cross-country event celebrating its 24th anniversary and the 34th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
In Manitoba, Law Day is put on by the The Manitoba Bar Association.
"A big purpose of this is to celebrate the signing of the Charter in April of 1982," said bar association president Bradley Regehr. "It’s important all Canadian citizens learn the Charter and the Bar Association is very happy and proud to bring this educational event to all Canadians, but especially to young Canadians so they learn about these rights and freedoms in life."
Exhibits and displays line much of the main floor of the courts. The RCMP and Winnipeg police had booths, guided tours of the courts were available and demonstrations by a drug detector dog were just a few of the events to take in.
Three local schools — Acadia Junior High, St. John’s Ravenscourt School and St. Mary’s Academy — also took part in a debate that asked the question: Should Manitoba courts promote access to justice by webcasting all court proceedings?
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