Old Bailey's first non-white circuit judge 'mistaken for a defendant'

Robin De Peyer

The Old Bailey’s first non-white circuit judge has revealed she has been mistaken for a witness or a defendant during her career.

Anuja Ravindra Dhir QC, who was called to the bar in 1989, was once forced to produce her wig and gown just to convince security to let her through the gates.

She has since risen to the top of her profession as the youngest circuit judge currently sitting at the historic Central Criminal Courts in London.

She said: “I remember going to a crown court out of London and the security, the man at the gate, didn't believe I was a barrister and in the end I had to show him my wig and gown before they would actually let me in to the building.

"And I got used to turning up at courts and people saying to me 'Witness? - no - Defendant? - no' and looking rather surprised when I said I was the advocate.

"I'm often asked if there is a glass ceiling. I think sometimes there are two ceilings - or no glass ceiling at all.

"There is one glass ceiling that's in our minds, that's what we think we can achieve so perhaps we impose our glass ceiling and that has happened to me several times."

The 49-year-old judge has now told of the "incredible" changes over the last 30 years.

She said: "My daughter, it would never cross her mind being treated differently because she's a female or because she's not white, whereas in my generation we did.”

“We were surprised when people didn't treat us differently,” she said. “Not now, but when I came to the bar, I was not expecting to be treated like a white Oxbridge male at all.

"So expectations have changed. That's a lot to be done over 30 years."

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