Return Paisley Snail

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

School students from across East Renfrewshire will turn back the clock when they stage a "re-enactment" of one of the most momentous legal cases of the 20th century at Paisley Sheriff Court on Saturday (October 25).

The case of the Paisley Snail provided a global landmark by establishing the principles of the law of negligence.

Young people from Barrhead HS and St Luke's HS, both Barrhead; Eastwood HS, Mearns Castle HS and Belmont House School, all Newton Mearns; St Ninian's HS and Woodfarm HS both Giffnock; and Williamwood HS, Clarkston, will take part in a series of MiniTrials  - including the groundbreaking Snail Case - organised by the Faculty of Advocates.

Pupils will play the roles of prosecution and defence lawyers, court staff, witnesses and jurors under the watchful eye of real-life clerks of court, advocates, procurators fiscal, and local solicitors.

During their day in court the pupils will run their own simplified Sheriff Court criminal jury trials using an information pack compiled by the Faculty and with the help of the professional volunteers. The morning session will take the form of a road traffic accident prosecution while in the afternoon the Paisley Snail case will be the subject of a civil action jury trial.

The facts of the snail case were straightforward - the year was 1928 and Mrs May Donoghue was in the Wellmeadow Cafe, Paisley, when a friend bought her a bottle of Stevenson's ginger beer. She had consumed some of the beer but, when the remains of the bottle were poured, out popped what appeared to be a decomposing snail. Mrs Donoghue sued the manufacturer David Stevenson.

The case of Donoghue v Stevenson ultimately went to the House of Lords where it was decided in favour of Mrs Donoghue and the legal principle relating to the law of negligence - in this case that of Mr Stevenson - were established.

The actual case never went to trial but at the Sheriff Court on Saturday modern-day Buddies and young people from across the region will stage a civil trial based on the facts of the case.

Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, Richard Keen QC said: "The MiniTrial initiative is an excellent way to help young people appreciate the value of Scotland's unique legal system and to discover, in an enjoyable way, how it works in practice."

The aim of the MiniTrials initiative, which was launched by High Court judge Lord Kinclaven and the Faculty six years ago, is to demystify the law in an enjoyable way and to allow pupils to see what really happens in court. It is also intended as a means of providing insight for those young people who might be considering a legal career.

East Renfrewshire Council education convener, Councillor Alan Lafferty, said: "The opportunity for young people to take part in an event like this, in real courtrooms and with real lawyers looking on, provides a unique 'hands-on' experience of the law at work. The MiniTrial initiative broadens pupils' understanding of the legal system and is also an enjoyable way of building confidence and enhancing public speaking skills. The Paisley Snail case is particularly interesting because of its local connections and because it represented a legal landmark not just in this country but across the world."

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Notes to editors

The Faculty of Advocates comprises Scotland's 460-plus practising advocates and QCs as well as many of the country's judges, sheriffs and academics. Founded in 1532, the Faculty is an independent body of lawyers who have been admitted to appear in the supreme courts of Scotland. Total numbers now stand at over 730. Practising members, of whom one fifth have attained the senior status of Queen's Counsel, handle the most complex criminal and civil cases in the country. 

The Faculty is fully committed to promoting Scotland's culture and to ensuring the nation's youth are given every opportunity to develop their academic skills and artistic talents. As a result, the Faculty is an active sponsor of the arts and runs a highly-successful programme of educational events aimed at increasing school pupils' understanding of the Scottish legal system and those who work within it.