David Chrimes is a (salaried) District Tribunal Judge of the Social Entitlement Chamber, in the SE Region, based at Luton Magistrates’ Court. He was first appointed to the judiciary in 2018 as Disability Qualified Member of the Social Entitlement Chamber, proceeding to a Fee-Paid Tribunal Judge in the the Social Entitlement Chamber in 2019.
David shares his experience of joining the judiciary with a disability.
“The majority of my practice as a barrister has been in crime – perhaps appropriately bearing in mind my surname! I have spent over 25 years as a Prosecutor in the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and other stints in a Common Law Chamber and as in-house Counsel for a firm of solicitors.
While working for the CPS, I secured a couple of public appointments as a member of the Social Security Advisory Committee (SSAC), which advises the DWP on social security issues, and also the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC), which advises the DFT on transport issues for disabled people.
Additionally, whilst working for the CPS, I headed both their Disabled Staff Network for 10 years and led the FDA trade union for 5 years, representing a large and diverse range of CPS employees.
I have always had a passionate commitment to justice, both for individuals, and collectively for groups I have represented. As my career progressed, I came round to the view that I had the attributes which would enable me to make just decisions, rather than advocating for them.
As a disabled person, with both a physical disability and a visual impairment, I have had to overcome challenges on a daily basis. My visual impairment (which hit suddenly after I had turned 30), came at a time before screen readers and digital papers, which placed restrictions on my practice as a Crown Court Advocate. However, it also encouraged me to absorb information by listening as opposed to reading, which has been of immense value to me as my career has progressed. Having to overcome these barriers has also helped me to understand the challenges faced by those who appear in front of me, and to empathise with the situations they face on a daily basis.
My previous career and general personal experience have taught me the critical importance of listening as a key judicial skill, and the need to show empathy to all those we meet in either a professional or private capacity. Life has also taught me that, hard work, thorough preparation and personal integrity are key to achievement and success, certainly more so than our personal background.
My experience as a disabled person has encouraged me to become a judge in two respects; firstly, because I have a fundamental belief that the judiciary should reflect the communities who appear in front of us. I believe that the judiciary is heading in the right direction on this, but more progress is needed. Secondly, empathy and understanding. In my current role, many of those people who appear in front of me have disabilities. While I cannot pretend to have a full appreciation of what it is to live in their shoes, I have some level of understanding, which I hope translates into fair decision-making.”