A FORMER York student has returned to her old school to talk to pupils about her decision to help inmates on death row in America who have not had a fair trial.

Kate Pryer, 24, returned to the Mount School to speak to sixth formers about her life and career path since leaving the all-girl Quaker school. The classics and law graduate leaves her native York this month for Phoenix, Arizona, for a six-month work placement with defence attorneys helping inmates on death row.

“I hoped to inspire the girls to do something slightly different than what everyone else may be doing,” says Kate, who has always had an interest in human rights and did a lot of work with the school’s Amnesty group while she was at The Mount.

Kate read Classics at Newcastle before taking a law conversion with the University of Law.

She said: “A representative from Amicus, the charity I’m going over to work for, came and gave a talk at uni and I knew that this US volunteer placement was something I would really enjoy.

“It’s very easy to criticise our British justice system because of course we live in it and see all of its flaws, such as the London Bridge attacks where having people released early against the judge’s wishes, or in other ways inadvisedly, is ridiculous. But having learned about the American justice system and attended talks by death row defence attorneys, I think we are quite lucky to have a justice system that is relatively fair and not based on race or ethnicity. While we can criticise our justice system, when you look at the American justice system in 2019 there are still alarming statistics showing for instance that you are three times more likely to go to death row if you have killed a white man than a black man.

"We may see news or TV shows from America and think, ‘Oh, can’t be real; it’s 2019!’

"But actually it is still incredibly racially driven.

"Don’t get me wrong, the British system has its flaws which are quite easy to criticise, but I’d much rather have our justice system, with its flaws, than something like America’s.”

Kate reflected on how her Phoenix placement came at the right time. “I thought to do it now while I’m young. I’m not tied down by anything, I’ve not got a house, my boyfriend will remain in the UK and it’s only six months.”

Sustaining a long distance relationship is never a simple path, and Kate felt compelled to alert the current college girls about such decisions. “I told the girls not to choose a university just because their boyfriend is going there. You have just got to do it on your own. My boyfriend and I will be long distance from America to the UK: long distance to two different UK universities is not that far.”

Kate said: “Everyone at uni would tell me, ‘Oh, you’re really confident, you’re good at public speaking and you’re so outgoing,’ and I would think, ‘Not really.’ I’m like this now because when you’re at The Mount, everybody in your year is like that, so you feel it’s very normal that everybody is confident, everyone puts their hand up, everyone is a leader and there are no followers, or very few. At uni, where everyone has come from different schools, that’s when I realised what The Mount has given me.”

“I’ve also just done Everest base camp with another girl who’d also been to an all-girl school. We were part of a mostly male expedition. You have to be quite candid because it’s a 3-week trek. They would tell us, ‘Gosh you are very outspoken for girls, aren’t you?’ and I would think, ‘No. This is normal This is how it’s supposed to be.’ We didn’t have boys laughing at girls for putting their hand up in class. And I would notice girls in town from other schools would be in uniform with immaculate hair and a full face of make up. We never wore make up when I was in college. We probably actually looked horrendous, but because we had no one to impress it didn’t matter. We just got on with learning."