Schools get to grips with the law through MiniTrials

30 Sep

Pupils from schools across Edinburgh have been cited to attend court this week, and will be given the chance to take the law into their own hands.

The youngsters are the latest to benefit from the MiniTrials initiative of the Faculty of Advocates, which aims to demystify the law in an enjoyable way and show what really happens in a criminal court.

Helped by lawyer volunteers and working from information packs compiled by the Faculty, the pupils 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 at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.

MiniTrials are in their 13th year, and were the idea of the judge, Lord Kinclaven.

He said: “I would like to see a day when every school pupil in Scotland has an opportunity to learn more about how our courts actually function in real life. Preferably, that should be done in a realistic, structured and organised way. It seems to me that MiniTrials are a great way to achieve those objectives and to help nudge pupils away from common misconceptions.”

The Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, James Wolffe, QC, added: “The courts are an essential part of our democracy and MiniTrials give students a real insight into what the court process is really like. I am very proud of the Faculty’s continuing role in MiniTrials. We all owe Lord Kinclaven our thanks for this initiative.”

Two cases are used. The first involves an attack by two youths on a man who is struck on the arm with a knife as he walks home. Only one of the youths has been caught and he faces a charge of acting with another to assault the victim to his severe injury.

The second arises from an incident outside a nightclub when the accused approaches a car and allegedly takes part in an exchange with the driver. On being stopped and searched by the police, Ecstasy tablets are found in his jacket. The question for the jury is whether he is guilty of possessing drugs with intent to supply them.

Eight schools are taking part on Saturday, 3 October: Boroughmuir High School, Currie Community High School, Drummond Community High School, Forrester High School, Holy Rood High School, James Gillespie’s High School, Queensferry High School and Trinity Academy.