Anuja Dhir: First Non-White Judge at Old Bailey
Anuja Dhir has become the first non-white circuit judge to sit at the Old Bailey. Dhir, of Indian origin, is also the youngest person to fill the role, at the age of 49.
Dhir has spoken of the difficulties that she has faced before and during her career, being non-white and female. She commented that, ‘when I went to school in the 1970s in Scotland, women were not encouraged to aim high,’ recalling that a teacher had advised her to take up a career in hairdressing instead of following her ambitions to become a lawyer. Dhir has also emphasised that her dyslexia was another factor that led her teachers to doubt her capabilities whilst at school.
Despite these challenges, Dhir successfully studied English and Scots law at Dundee University, subsequently winning a Gray’s Inn scholarship in London. She was then called to the bar in 1989, where she practised for 23 years as both prosecutor and defence counsel.
Her career has not been without difficulties, however. Dhir has said that she has often been mistaken for a witness or defendant, as opposed to someone within the legal profession:
‘I remember going to a crown court out of London and the man at the gate didn’t believe I was a barrister. In the end I had to show him my wig and gown before they would actually let me into the building.’
She has also commented on the fact that building a client base was hard because ‘most clients did not want a young, Asian, Scottish female representing them.’
Given the challenges that Anuja Dhir has faced, it is a remarkable achievement that she is now a judge at the Old Bailey; hopefully, this will pave the way for many other women, particularly of minority backgrounds, to follow in her footsteps.