Celebrating Britain's 101 Most Influential Asians 2022

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Anuja Dhir


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IF THIS judge were to write an autobiography, a suitable title might be: ‘How to be a Serial Shatterer of Glass Ceilings’.

Anuja Dhir is the first central criminal court judge from an Asian or a diverse background – who since 2017 has sat at the Old Bailey as Her Honour Judge Anuja Dhir.

She is one of a highly select group of judges, who sit at the Old Bailey (the most prominent criminal court in the country) and are able to preside over the most heinous kinds of criminal cases, including murder and terrorism. She is also authorised to try cases that are held ‘in camera’ (in private) for reasons of national security.

As well as sitting on cases at the Old Bailey, she is also on the Judicial Appointments Commission – which selects judges to sit in trials in England and Wales. She was reappointed to this position in May 2021, along with two others and began her new three-year term in June of last year.

It’s a remarkable rise for someone was advised by her school teachers to become a hairdresser.

She had also at the beginning of her career in 1989 – been faced with routinely being mistaken for a defendant or a witness.

In those days, the profession was dominated by mostly white public school educated men with connections.

On one famous occasion, the court security demanded she produce her wig and gown before agreeing to let her into the building. Most clients did not want “a young, Asian, Scottish female” to represent them, which made it harder to build a client base when she started out.

“I got used to turning up at courts and people saying to me ‘Witness? – no – Defendant? – no’ and looking rather surprised when I said I

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