First Lady of MiniTrials calls it a day

22 Oct


Take a bow, Joan Spencer, who is stepping down after 13 years as the “First Lady of MiniTrials”.

Joan has been an inspirational driving force behind the Faculty’s MiniTrials initiative since it began in 2002, helping to organise and attending events across Scotland.

But with retirement from her teaching post on the horizon, she has decided that the recent Edinburgh MiniTrials will be her last, just short of her half century of events.

“I’ve loved every minute of my time with this project and I’m very proud of having been part of it,” said Joan.

MiniTrials aim to demystify the law for school pupils in an enjoyable way, and show what really happens in a criminal court. Youngsters from eight local secondary schools are helped by volunteer lawyers and work to information packs compiled by the Faculty, as they act out a jury trial. They convene the court, prosecute and defend the accused, and deliver a verdict. And all in the setting of a real courtroom in a sheriff court.

Lord Kinclaven, (Sandy Wylie, QC) the man behind MiniTrials, said: “Joan is the First Lady of MiniTrials. She first invited members of Faculty into her classroom in 2002 and since then she has organised numerous law-related educational events across Scotland. Her achievements include organising all 13 of the annual MiniTrials in Edinburgh Sheriff Court, and she has helped organise and has attended about 46 all-day MiniTrials events in sheriff courts throughout the country.

“Literally thousands of pupils, and their teachers, have learned a huge amount about the Scottish legal system and their local courts – thanks to Joan’s infectious enthusiasm, her willingness to provide support and her irrepressible sense of fun. Lawyers and court staff have learned how talented our young people really are.

“Thank you Joan.”

Joan, who teaches English at Trinity Academy, Edinburgh, describes the MiniTrials initiative as “perfect in its idea and its form”, adding: “It allows pupils to work with professionals on a project which is a challenge, but which is attainable. No-one who has attended a MiniTrials event can fail to be caught up in the excitement of pupils who have just won their case or their disappointment when they haven’t. It’s great fun.”

Looking back to when it all began, Joan states: “I never dreamed when Sandy first showed me his plans for MiniTrials that it would change my life completely. I’ve had years of fun meeting the advocates, at Parliament House and at my school. There are too many of them to mention. Their enthusiasm for the project is infectious.

“I’ve had more fun with this project than in any other area of my professional life – I’m probably not supposed to say this, but it’s true! I’ll be grateful for ever to everyone for their friendship, help and guidance.”