Edinburgh Schools MiniTrials returns to court

14 Oct

Local schoolchildren taking part in the Edinburgh Schools MiniTrials at Edinburgh Sheriff Court


A GROUP of around 200 schoolchildren and teachers gathered at Edinburgh Sheriff Court recently to take part in the Edinburgh Schools MiniTrials.

The event was organised by a steering group under Lord Mulholland’s chairmanship and supported by a sponsorship from the Faculty of Advocates.

The MiniTrials initiative sees pupils taking an active role in reconstructing criminal and civil trials in various Sheriff Courts across Scotland. It is a fun, informative way for them to learn about the Scottish legal system, as well as nurture interest in building careers in the legal profession. It was launched by Lord Kinclaven, then Sandy Wylie KC, who was moved by a suggestion that more should be done to promote legal education in schools, and came up with the idea of mock trials where pupils could play an active role.

Since the first MiniTrial was held in 2002, thousands of youngsters have participated in these events. The Scottish Court Service and local Sheriff Clerks have willingly provided courtrooms and a huge amount of help and support for all of these events over the years. The ability to use real courtrooms and to meet real court staff has been a major factor in their success.

The annual Edinburgh Schools MiniTrials returned this year after being put on hold for a while due to the pandemic. Participating schools included Trinity Academy; Currie High School; James Gillespie's High School; Boroughmuir High School; Firrhill Academy; Tynecastle High School; Royal High School; Leith Academy; Craigmount High School and Balerno High School.

Faculty members have volunteered since the beginning of this initiative, originally by visiting schools and helping pupils to stage MiniTrials in class. This year the five Faculty members that took on the role of judges during the trial reconstructions at Edinburgh Sheriff Court were Fergus Colquhoun, Andy Lamb KC, Elaine Smith, Shirley McKenna and Paul Harvey.

Other organisations that have lent their support over the years include the Law Society of Scotland, the Procurator Fiscal Service, the WS Society and city councils in the areas the events have taken place.

Faculty’s Joint MiniTrials Coordinator, Michael Upton, who again devoted considerable time to ensure the success of the Edinburgh event, said: “Members of Faculty have also helped to organise and run similar MiniTrial events in various Sheriff Courts across the country in previous years, such as Kilmarnock, Edinburgh Paisley, Ayr, Dundee and Glasgow.

“The legal system exists to serve the public – so we have a duty to explain how the courts work  -  and there’s no better place to begin than with such interested and enthusiastic schoolchildren. “ “This is Lord Kinclaven’s inspiration and groundwork being put into practice,” he added.