Samantha Spence

Sam Spence

LLB (Hons) Law (1st Class), LLM Research

Graduate Teaching Assistant in Law 

How do you go from being a full time mum, to carrying out research into witchcraft? Nosing around on the internet helped mum of two Samantha Spence find the way to change her life.

She knew she wanted a career but didn’t know what avenue to take, until she spotted an advertisement for a course at Edge Hill University which pointed her in a whole new direction.

Sam enrolled on a Fastrack course, which meant she didn’t need to go back to school before she could get a degree.

“I got a good education at Bolton School,” says Sam, but some family problems and a bereavement meant I left before doing my A-levels. I’d worked in bars, then met my husband and had two children. I knew I wanted something challenging so I picked Law and because I did the Fastrack course it meant I could bypass A-levels. My Fastrack law group was very varied – I thought I’d be the oldest, but there were others older than me – and it meant that I had an advantage, as a mum-of-two and A-level students can be poles apart. I quickly found out that you really have to throw yourself into university, though it can be strange and daunting, but the Fastrack taught me to write academically again and helped settle me into the University.”

Sam’s Law degree went brilliantly and she graduated with a First. She then worked for a solicitor for a year, but knew her heart wasn’t really in it.

“I think most people go into Law assuming they’ll be solicitors,” she says, “but there was always a bit of doubt for me. I wanted to say I’d tried it, but I knew it was research that I was passionate about.”

Sam returned to Edge Hill to do a LLM by Research – a course which will assist her dream of eventually becoming a university academic. She specialised in cultural violence against women, but has since chosen to focus on some of the perhaps less common crimes – in particular, witch burning. Now she’s been awarded a scholarship to do a PhD at Lancaster University, focusing on witch killings, and will also be teaching some English Law modules there too.

Sam says: “Witchkillings are prevalent in Africa and Asia – superstitious beliefs are so entrenched in some areas. It’s rife – and all it takes is an accusation and things escalate.”

Sam is working with two organisations – the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network, where she has an internship, and the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, with which she is going to Nepal to present a report into witch killings.

“Doors are really opening for me,” Sam says. “And my degree has given me opportunities that I would have never dreamed of.”