By MD Mominul Hamid (M Law Exempt Bar student, Northumbria University, UK)
I have been thinking of writing a blog about my real-life experiences as a law student accessing the court in the UK. This blog is solely based on my opinion, what I have observed as a student and what can be changed with some recommendations. You may agree/disagree with me, but my opinion remains my intellectual property until I seduce myself to alter or change it.
You can read my other blog about my experience- Link
Where it starts
I have recently had some opportunities to work with clients as a volunteer/shadow Judge a few times. Things to be added I do not have any family or friends who know anyone who is a Judge or will allow me to shadow a judge. I was lucky to get two consecutive opportunities to shadow Judges after two years of my continuous emails to the local courts and, finally, getting annoyed with me!
- Yes, where was I? Yes, Where it starts; it actually starts when you put your step at the court’s entrance. Yes, you guessed it right -at the security entrance. As soon as you are in, the look you get because you look different, it makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Some of the incidents I have faced being a law student-
- Standing in the long queue in the court, I was the only person (of colour) and was asked what the purpose of you coming to the court was. A person trying to avoid the queue (wearing Nike joggers and a jacket) has not been asked either, as he did not look different. You can argue that it could be a security procedure or random check, or maybe you looked nervous; that’s why the security asked you this question. The answer is no, I was not nervous but confident and dressed as an aspiring Barrister, and I observed the security guy even after I passed the security check for 3 min, and he did not ask anyone in the queue why they were there.
- When I went to the security desk ( as instructed on my shadowing instruction on paper), I presented my copy of Shadowing a Judge. Without reading the paper (half-page confirmation), he told me- ”Look in the board on the corner, and you will find your name there”. Point to be noted – It is a board for criminal cases for that day. I was not surprised, to be honest, but realised that, yes, I was right. I had to request security -‘ Would you be kind to read the paper and kindly direct me, please?’ He then realised I was not a party or criminal, but after reading, it assigned someone else to escort me to the Judge. I felt unwell after a horrible experience (as expected) like this. But let me be clear ‘The Judge’ was excellent. Judge was welcoming and even took my jacket to put in the hanger. This is what I love about Judges when they come from diverse backgrounds and when they understand how much bamboo you would consider before going through the system if you are not from a privileged background and especially a woman.
- On another occasion, it started in security; even though I produced my university Id and expressed my intention to observe the public hearing(the one open to the public), I was asked for 5 minutes questions and left standing for 5 minutes for nothing. The second part was asking permission from the ushers.
- There are a bunch of news in the English national media and newspapers about how the Barristers and lawyers are racially profiled in court during their work. No, I wouldn’t say it was by mistake. I closely mix with my community through my other roles in the community ( Citizens Advice, Fire service, Vaccination volunteering etc) and I know absolutely what I am talking about. The newspapers and national media may say it was a mistake but I would say no it is not. Now I know some of (the so-called privileged class) will tell me do not like it then why don’t you leave? No, sorry, not this time. You need to understand the world is changing, and I am not here to leave or give up. I have stories behind my back and specific reasons why I am studying law. Why I should accomplish my desire to be someone in the legal sector? Want to know more? then google my name ( Md Mominul Hamid). One of the news I would like to share about how lawyers from diversified backgrounds find the court experience is here( From Guardian)
- Recently while attending a court hearing, I felt it was a bit unusual for a brown person to accompany a white grandmom in court. I felt a bit uneasy as I was asked by the same person twice what I was doing there and who am I. Asked by a Clark in the court what is this Support Through Court? I never heard about it. I have resolved it by explaining Stuuport Through the Court’s particular contract with the Ministry of Justice ( MoJ).
REAL ET vs Reality:
You may know about ET, and they are imaginary. But The Real ET in the legal sector is actually exists. The incident just as an Asian law student I have faced was not suitable for me but traumatic. I have seen authorities/groups talk very highly about it, but how much do we think to resolve it from the personal point of view who faced it? Did we ever ask how it could be better dealt with or resolved for that person who faced it? Maybe no. Many of us cope with it by thinking about who has the time or energy to deal with it. We need to remember the mental health of a practitioner is very important to ensure the best outcome of justice. Regardless of whether you are a Judge/Clerk, Usher, Barrister, Solicitor, Student, Trainee, Court official, Security or even Lord Chief Justice. The legal sector, especially Bar and due to legal aid cuts and loss of earnings by specific Bar practitioners, are clearly visible in the court proceedings. I have clearly observed them through my experience in the court.
The matter question is shall we still play the drums of TIK box REAL ET- ‘ We are working hard to make the legal sector more & more( There is no definition or bar of this more set out yet) inclusive and diversified.’
data are taken from- https://fullfact.org/law/barristers-and-diversity/
Due to the grace of my first year’s opinion writing and my wider participation in the panels/trustee, I have learned to omit how to critically (can be arguable) write recommendations.
The situation will not change unless or until
- We do not hear from the lived experience people and make panels and advisory groups with them.
- Recommendations from those groups should be reflected in the actual plan.
- Court staffs (especially securities) need diversity and inclusion training with advisory group/panel recommendations). Poele should not feel scared or intimidated to access justice or to involve.
- The invisible wall of diversified student access to the court must be considered. Due to my own experience, I feel reluctant to go to court.
- A yearly monitoring report based on the panel’s recommendation should be published.
- Based on that report, courts in the country will be ranked to demonstrate how adaptable they were during the year, and goals should be set for them to achieve that and not just left to that similar wordings of “We are trying our best”, and we did blah blah blah”.
- The panel could observe and conduct surprise visits and do the marking to see how they operate in the active inclusion ground. Preferred training should be offered to the officials if needed.
- List of court adopting and encouraging diversified students to include or giving opportunities to explore the court and shadowing.
- All courts must have a system to indicate how many students from the diversity they have facilitated and their evaluation of feedback upon court support.
I have more to add, but let’s think about all of these for now. I have a lot of plans, but again, because I am just a non-privileged Bar student (I should add with courage, not the best student), and no one will listen to me or read my blog or share it, but I will not stop.
I never gave up because I believe- *There is no you or me, it’s all about us. This is the reason why we’re not making great strides as much as this great nation deserves is because we give over-emphasis on I and not we* MD
If you want to know more about me or how I survive, you can read my recent blog- “Uncertainty and Hostility in my Life as an asylum seeker in the UK’.
Thank you, Everyone, for reading my blog.
Disclaimer: Any comments are welcome. As a law student, I respect everyones’ view but that must not indicate I should support your view or even in the future my perspective may have moved (Due to reasons), but that does not discredit the truth that I am correct. Please do not copy my blog and If you share please admit the credit to me. Thank you. Md Mominul Hamid ( Acting like a lawyer ( Barrister), an asylum seeker in the UK ( please do not be surprised), A victim of Modern-day Slavery And trafficking in the UK, An Activist Acting like a lawyer looking for legal experience opportunities ( any takers)?