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Alexandra Wilson: Black Barrister mistaken for a defendant investigation launched

“In just 3 months I’ll be defending and prosecuting in the Courts of England and Wales. I’m 24. I’m mixed-race. I’m from Essex. I’m not posh. I worked hard and NEVER listened when people said the Bar wasn’t for people like me. THIS is what a barrister looks like.” Despite her high achievement the Oxford educated Wilson was mistaken for a defendant 3 times in one day: she said she does not expect to be justifying herself at work. Image: Alexandra Wilson

Criminal and family law barrister Alexandra Wilson explained events on her social page saying she believed a light needed to be shone on the issue ‘especially given so many people like me seem to experience the same thing’. ‘There MUST be something about my face that says “not a barrister” because I am literally wearing a black suit like everyone else. I don’t get it. Today it actually upset me a bit but… we move x.’

Wilson, said a security officer asked what her name was so he could find it on the list of defendants. Wilson explained she was a barrister. He apologised and guided her through security. ‘At this point I tried to shrug it off as an innocent mistake,’ she said.

After speaking to her client, as she attempted to go into courtroom to discuss the case with the prosecutor. ‘At the door a member of the public told me not to go into the courtroom. I asked why and she said because it’s a court, only lawyers can go in. She said I was a journalist. The usher (the one person who recognised I was a barrister today) said to ignore her and to head on in.’

‘As I opened the door, a solicitor/barrister said I needed to wait outside court and said the usher (who, by the way, was next to me) would come outside and sign me in and the court would call me in for my case. I explained I’m a barrister. She looked embarrassed and said “oh, I see”.’

As she walked in. ‘Before I got there the clerk, VERY loudly, told me to leave the courtroom and said the usher would be out shortly. Before I could respond she then asked if I was represented. I, AGAIN, explained that I’m a defence barrister trying to speak to the prosecutor. She looked at me, said “oh right, OK” and continued with what she was doing.

‘Thankfully, the prosecutor and I were eventually able to have our conversation and the case proceeded smoothly. This really isn’t OK though. I don’t expect to have to constantly justify my existence at work.’

Wilson’s experience widely enraged lawyers the HMCTS chief executive Kevin Sadler apologised on social media in the thread of her posts.

Law Society president Simon Davis said: ‘This type of prejudice highlights the need for us all to reflect on the actions we can take to tackle discrimination. The Law Society is in the process of conducting research into the experiences of our black, Asian and minority ethnic members, including the impact prejudice can have on their confidence, career satisfaction and progression, and how we can drive change.’

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