Black barrister mistaken for defendant three times in one day

‘I hope that this leads to some real change,’ says Alexandra Wilson

Rory Sullivan
Thursday 24 September 2020 17:38 BST
Alexandra Wilson is a criminal and family barrister.
Alexandra Wilson is a criminal and family barrister. (essexbarrister/Instagram)

A black barrister was mistaken for a defendant three times at court in one day, leading the head of England and Wales’ courts to issue her an apology and to launch an investigation.

Alexandra Wilson, who specialises in criminal and family cases, explained what had happened to her in a series of messages on Twitter, saying she was “absolutely exhausted” by this and similar incidents.

In response, Kevin Sadler, the acting head of HM Courts and Tribunals Service, apologised to Ms Wilson, writing that it was “totally unacceptable behaviour”, which would be investigated as “as matter of urgency”.

Ms Wilson, who is also the author of In Black and White, a book about racism in the justice system, thanked him for his apology.

“I hope that this leads to some real change,” she added.

The barrister was first assumed to be standing trial by a security guard, who asked for her name so that he could check that it was on a list of defendants.

A member of the public then took her for a journalist and told her not to enter the court, before an usher who recognised her allowed her to go in to speak to the prosecutor.

In the courtroom, another lawyer as well as the clerk mistook her for a defendant, with the latter asking her whether she was “represented”.

Ms Wilson tweeted: “This really isn't ok… I don't expect to have to constantly justify my existence at work.”

A Ministry of Justice report published last week found that black and minority ethnic people were over-represented in applications for judicial appointment but were less likely to be successful.

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