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Chelmsford's Got Talent (and some)

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You can forget your Britain's Got Talent or The X Factor; the real stars were the sixth form students from Chelmsford's finest, battling it out at Gepp & Sons Solicitors annual debating contest at the Shire Hall. The sixth form students from Moulsham High, St John Payne Catholic Comprehensive, Chelmsford College, Chelmsford County High School for Girls, Sandon, King Edward VI Grammar, Boswells and Chelmer Valley High School, were to debate not in front of Simon or Louis, but a distinguished panel of eminent judges. And the good news was, only positive words of encouragement were voiced. This was the second year of the secondary school debating contest put on by Gepp and Sons as part of their community support projects in local education. The evening was introduced by Gepp & Sons Managing Partner, Steven Payne who on behalf of his firm, had the pleasure of sponsoring the event. Everyone was entertained by the Master of Ceremonies, BBC Essex's Dave Monk who kept a VERY competitive evening on the straight and narrow. Over a tense evening the students debated either for or against on a subject most people would want to have a say on. "This house proposes that homeowners need greater protection from prosecution when confronting an intruder". Nerves ran high especially when the students were questioned by a judging panel comprising of Her Honour Judge Walden-Smith, William Clegg QC from 2 Bedford Row Chambers, Simon Spence QC and David Holborn from 18 Red Lion Court Chambers, Sasha Bailey from 2 Pump Court Chambers and Francis Garland-Collins, Deputy Clerk to the Justices. During their interval, the debaters were kindly given a guided tour by the staff of the Courts Services of court number 1 along with a rather spooky visit to the Victorian cells below. Quite an eye opener for all in attendance. Staff from the Probation Service were also on hand to provide information and answer questions about their work and job opportunities within the service. The audience and students were treated to an incredibly interesting and motivational talk by David Holborn assisted by his current pupil giving an insight into life in the legal profession. The climax, for the second year running was a final between St John Payne and County High School for Girls. Tensions ran high when two students from each school provided a 'plea in mitigation' for a 19 year old male offender charged with an offence of criminal damage. The standard of speakers was exceptionally high this year which made the judges job even more difficult. However after some deliberation the winners were announced. For the second year in a row, St John Payne School piped Chelmsford County High School for Girls to the post. Prizes for the winning team and best debaters were presented by the distinguished panel of judges, along with copies of the soon to be released 'The Way We Worked', a record of Gepp and Sons 250 years of service to the County Town of Chelmsford (and beyond). Well done to St John Payne School, will they make it a hat trick next year? More information and photos on the event along with details on the aforementioned book, can be obtained by emailing or telephone 01245 493939.