Ross Duncan interviews Judge Dhir OBE

Being a Judge in the Old Bailey one would expect a person in such a lofty position to be already publicly scrutinised, but what happens if the same person happened to be judged at young age and only thought at the time only suitable to become a hairdresser?

Anuja Ravindra Dhir grew up in loving and supportive family in Dundee and although her school may have tried to persuade not to think so highly of herself, her family wanted her to be a well-rounded individual and to enjoy school more than how well she did with exams.  This approach from her parents was to give her confidence and meant that she had confidence in herself.  Growing up, much of her inspiration came from her father, Professor Ravindra Dhir OBE, who came to the UK from India in the 1950’s, and was strong, humble, and principled.  He had and still has, an incredible ethic for working hard and for not letting anything hold him back, as well as the resilience required to make a difference. Her father also kept a watchful eye on her when she was a studying English and Scottish Law at Dundee University, where he was a lecturer of Civil Engineering her view was that people should follow their own path to find out what they are good at.

But as is so common of a generation, dyslexia wasn’t ‘picked’ at school and hadn’t crossed her mind until her two children were diagnosed with the condition. Her opinion about schools now is that they are becoming better at dealing with dyslexia and where there is properly staffed learning support provided they don’t make children feel less able.  They now provide the support framework to give encouragement and practical help to children with dyslexia to help them reach their full potential. This of course only highlights the importance of early diagnosis.

But to reach the bar and to eventually become member of the Bar requires a lot of determination, particularly as Judge Dhir was eventually to be the first non-white judge at the Old Bailey.  Add to this the fact that during much of the journey to get where she is now she wasn’t actually aware that she had dyslexia and only found until in her 40s.  She didn’t, however, have an uphill struggle to get success as you might have expected but found law interesting and stimulating.  When practising for the Bar she soon came to realise that soft skills matter in the workplace.  it was easy to forget that at school as the emphasis is about passing exams. She believes that people are becoming much more informed about dyslexia and understanding the condition, which is only a positive thing as this gives  better access and opportunities to many professions, including the law. Since becoming a barrister in 1989, there have been two significant changes related to equality and diversity.  One is the introduction of child friendly policies to enable mothers to come back to work and the other has led to the profession being more accessible to people regardless of gender, race and social background.  The second change, which has made a real difference is that Judges in England are appointed on merit by an independent commission, in an open and transparent manner, this means all are treated equally.  

Ross Duncan

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