LIBERTY director Shami Chakrabarti and politicians joined pupils from a North Finchley school for a discussion about the current political system.
Teenagers from St Michael's Catholic Grammar School, in Nether Street, North Finchley, were introduced to Finchley and Golders Green MP Mike Freer, Barnet Councillor Tom Davey and Ms Chakrabarti at the politics masterclass this morning.
Ms Chakrabarti, 42, who joined The National Council for Civil Liberties in 2001, spoke about growing up in a semi-detached house in Harrow with her parents and how she became interested in fighting for human rights.
Recalling watching the news with her parents aged about 12, she told students about the “hideous” story of the Yorkshire Ripper who was being hunted for a string of murders.
She said: “I remember saying to my dad what I thought should happen to this man was that he should be put to death.”
Her father asked if she believed in the death penalty, to which she responded: “Well why not,for a monster like that, brutally murdering women.
“But my dad said you have to imagine what it would feel like to be the one person in a million who was wrongly convicted of murder. No criminal service in history will ever be 100 per cent perfect.
“When I remember that moment in my life and I tell that story the hairs on the back of my neck still slightly prickle. It’s the moment I started to think about the relationship between an individual and the state and society as a whole.”
The forum was organised by the Barnet Education Business Partnership to inspire youngsters and give them more of an insight into the political system.
Questions ranged from how much councillors earn to specific concerns about the closing of youth centres.
Responding to a question about the council’s lack of expenditure on sport facilities, Cllr Davey, cabinet member for housing, said: “My personal opinion is we shouldn’t have anything to do with leisure. People can walk or jog in the park for free. That’s the attitude we have to take because we only have a set amount of money to spend.”