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Tribute as teacher pioneer of Faculty's "MiniTrials" retires

22 October 2015

The schoolteacher described by the Faculty of Advocates as the “First Lady of MiniTrials” is stepping down from involvement with the project, due to her pending retirement.

Joan Spencer, an English teacher at Trinity Academy, Edinburgh, has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Faculty’s initiative since it began in 2002, helping to organise and attending nearly 50 events across Scotland.

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, all in the setting of a real sheriff court.

Ms Spencer describes the MiniTrials concept 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.”

She affirmed: “I’ve loved every minute of my time with this project and I’m very proud of having been part of it." Thanking all those involved in the Faculty for their enthusiasm, Ms Spencer added: "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!"

Lord Kinclaven (Sandy Wylie, QC), who devised the project, commented: “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."

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