My parents are from East Africa, as first-generation immigrants they came to the UK in the 1970’s. I was born and raised in North London. I attended a state comprehensive school and was the first in my family to go to university where I studied Law. I joined the Crown Prosecution Service as a Paralegal and went on to qualify as a Solicitor through their Legal Trainee scheme in 2005 and then to have a fulfilling career. I had various roles climbing through the ranks up to Specialist Prosecutor in Extradition. In 2016 I was called to the Bar in the hope of expanding my practice areas, but before I could, I was appointed as a full-time Immigration Judge in 2018. The role gave me the opportunity to learn something new and develop my interest in Human Rights.
I applied for that role initially to try and identify any gaps in my examples. The JAC process takes some getting used to and having been appointed to The Valuation Tribunal in 2016 I thought it might be a good time to test out some new examples. It turned out they were better than I thought. The process of completing the forms can be daunting as can the online tests and interviews but there is no substitution for preparation. Unfortunately, the same advice we were taught when learning to be advocates still applies. Finding the time for that preparation may be challenging as there are growing families and a busy practice to contend with, but my advice is to start early. While it is a more onerous task than you expect, you do come away at the end of the journey, if successful, feeling more confident and knowing you have been selected through a transparent, fair and objective process.
As of 2020, I am a full-time District Judge sitting in crime based in London. I have been lucky enough to be at Court houses where there is no shortage of work and this has meant throwing myself in at the deep end. My colleagues have always been supportive and on hand to offer advice, for which I am so thankful as it can otherwise seem like a lonely job. As for the role itself, I absolutely love it. The work is so varied, and every day is different. It is not just the work which is varied, but also the people before you. In any given day, you could be dealing with some of the most vulnerable members of society and the next the most able of advocates. District Judges have a wide jurisdiction, from low level offences through to more complex, or high-profile matters which often require legal argument. Most are ticketed to do youth work which can be rewarding, especially when you see a direct positive impact from an interaction you have had with them. There is also scope to branch out and try serious sex cases and terrorism cases.
I would encourage those that meet the eligibility criteria to consider applying, especially if you are from a BAME background. The judiciary should reflect the communities we serve and that will only happen if more people apply.