Ray Singh, a solicitor in Bradford for over 2 decades, was appointed a Circuit Judge in 2019. When he became a Recorder on the Northern Circuit in 2009 he was only the second Asian solicitor to be appointed to the role.
“The one thing that I hope my appointment will do is encourage other solicitors and young Asians to apply,” he says. Mr Singh is senior partner at the Bradford firm Petherbridge Bassra which he joined in 1987. He is a solicitor advocate who specialises in defence work at the Crown Court. Why did he apply for a job on the Bench? “The motivation was seeing life from a different perspective, a view from the Bench as opposed to the view of the advocate,” he replies.”I also felt that it was a natural progression for my career. I have been doing defence work for 20 years. I felt that it was perhaps the right time to make an application.”
Mr Singh first applied for a judicial post in 2005 when the appointment process was run by the Department for Constitutional Affairs. What was his view of the old system? It seemed like “a case of judges judging judges judging”, he says. “In those days it was done more on a nod and a wink as to who they should push through and who they shouldn’t.”
Mr Singh, who was appointed when he was 45 years old, says: “Younger kids coming through saw me as a kind of elder statesman. Really it was encouragement and pushing from them that made me apply, as well as encouragement from certain members of the judiciary.”
“I don’t think there has ever been a hindrance in whatever career path I have chosen in my profession – from being able to become a senior partner through to being a liaison officer in the court users’ group. I have never once felt that there has been a stumbling block whereby someone has said ‘Hang on, he’s Asian’.”
His ‘great fear’ is “the perception that I have been appointed because I am Asian and been pushed up the ranks unfairly. I’ve said that I would only ever expect to be appointed on merit and not there simply to make the numbers up,” he says.
As well as a written test and an interview, his selection included a role-play exercise. “We were given a short script and then we were asked to walk into a room. Suddenly everybody stood up. You then realised you were the judge and it was a court. It was a challenging exercise.” Did the process favour barristers over solicitors? “I don’t think it is designed in that way but most solicitors do not appear in the Crown Court and the arena for the role-play was the Crown Court,” he says. Mr Singh works almost full-time in the Crown Court. Although, he adds that he understood that exercise was less about testing legal expertise and more about assessing how “assertive and authoritative you are and how able to control the issues going on around you”.
What about his judicial ambitions? He plans on sitting the maximum number of days (20 a year) that he can. But he says: “I genuinely love the day job. I’m in court every day and that is what I enjoy doing. There may come a point in time when I decide I want to go full time but I have no desire at the moment.”