First ethnic minorities high court judge

Mrs. Justice Dobbs is Britain’s first ethnic minority judge. Report and pictures in Blink. According to Times Online (registration required, free of charge), she studied law and Russian and speaks fluent Russian. According to blink, she also did a Ph.D. in Soviet criminology and penology (probably this was what got her pupillage with Michael Havers, rather than the LL.M. mentioned in the Times).

bq. There was also some overt racism. She was briefed to represent some National Front skinheads who had thrown a brick through an Asian shopkeeper’s window. “When the clerk (not the present clerk) gave me the case I asked him if it was wise. He said: don’t worry — just do an Al Jolson in reverse — ie, white up. The clerk didn’t take it seriously.” Predictably, the youths were uncomfortable when they saw her. But she took them head-on. “They were talking about a ‘wog box’ and I made them explain that it was a ghetto blaster. I’d put them on notice and taken control and after that the whole dynamic changed. They pleaded guilty and even thanked me. Much of it is down to ignorance, isn’t it?”

Her mother was from Sierra Leone, and the Times describes her father as ‘British’, which I assume means white, although it needn’t.

11 thoughts on “First ethnic minorities high court judge

  1. “wog box”? That’s a new one one me Margaret. I thought they were referred to as “ghetto blasters” ….I guess the phrase would sound quaint to todays youngsters…


  2. >>”Wog box” was common enough by the late ’80s, in circles I moved in earshot of if not in.

  3. Blink can’t bring itself to name the University she studied Russian at: Surrey Uni. Linda was down at Guildford for my last 2 years at the place early 1970s and was featured in the last Surrey Grad. magazine. The head of the Russian Dept., Prof. Bert Pockney, died recently. He was an avid Communist, so I don’t know how Linda got on with him.

    Coincidentally – and I reminded her of this at a conference up in Edinburgh – I had the unpleasant experience as a LAY witness 20 years ago of being cross-examined by her when she was acting at West London Mags Court on behalf of a deranged Englishman from Paddington who knocked over a postcard stand outside an Indian grocery shop on Kensington Church Street and then pulled a pen-knife. The shop-keepers couldn’t be bothered to go to court to testify after I summoned the police to stop that eccentric on the street.

    But I did go and had my eyesight confidently reduced to blinking by her: ‘are you sure it wasn’t his watch that was flashing out of his pocket?’. She got him off – only for him to be immediately arrested outside the court-room for another offence he had been charged with.

  4. Was Surrey one of the first places to offer law and languages?
    I think one of my fellow articled clerks was there, but it may have been a polytechnic at the time. He is now running a flamenco school in Andalusia, after spending some time working for a British law firm in Spain!

  5. Yes it was one of the first places, Margaret. It used to be Battersea College of Technology a.k.a. the Polish Engineering University in London for World War II Polish refugee scientists who studied & taught there.

    I spent my fresher’s year in a converted-warehouse Annex behind Clapham Junction before the Langs. Dept. – one of the last – moved down to the new Surrey Uni. site at Guildford in 1970.

    German lecturer Robert ‘Bob’ Lord pioneered the non-literary (inc. economics etc.) lang. courses at BCT in the Swinging Sixties.

    Your own alma mater King’s College, London, quickly followed suit with an LLB French & German law option that I ‘sent’ my youngest brother on. Then Kingston and Portsmouth Unis. – ex-Polys – brought up the rear in the early 70s with courses that looked to me closely modelled on the Surrey template.

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