Dame Linda Dobbs

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When the Honourable Dame Linda Dobbs DBE made legal history by becoming Britain’s first non-white High Court judge she said she was confident that she would be the first of many to come. That was in 2004 and so far she remains the only female ethnic minority to have been a High Court judge with the Honourable Mr Justice Singh becoming the second High Court judge only in 2011.

Linda still sits as a Deputy High Court judge but stepped down from the bench in April 2013. During her time on the bench she was Chair of the Magisterial and International Committees of the Judicial College. She was also the Senior Liaison Judge for Diversity and was involved in many initiatives to raise awareness about the judiciary and to encourage a wider pool of applicants for the bench.

In 2013 she was appointed by the BBC to chair the Stuart Hall inquiry, investigating allegations of inappropriate sexual whilst he was working for the BBC. The disgraced former radio and television presenter was later convicted and jailed.

Linda is a contributing editor to a number of legal publications and has lectured extensively to university and Bar students, magistrates, police and other professionals, both in the UK and internationally. She undertakes pro bono work helping to train lawyers and judges in Africa and the Caribbean. She is also a patron and trustee of a number of charities that reflect her interests in national and international pro bono work, including the BLD Foundation.

Linda was born in 1951 in Freetown, Sierra Leone. Her mother was from the country and her father was an English lawyer, who went on to serve as High Court judge in Sierra Leone. Her early education was in Sierra Leone, but she later attended boarding School at Moreton Hall in England.

Her first love was music and she read Music at Edinburgh University. After a year studying music she decided that, given the exceptional talent she saw amongst some of her peers, a career as a musician would be foolish. She changed course to Linguistic and Regional Studies and went on to read Russian and Law at the University of Surrey, graduating in 1976. She did her Master in Laws at the London School of Economics, which included Human Rights Law, and then did a Doctorate (PhD) in Soviet Criminology and Penology.

Linda thought that she wanted to be an academic, rather than a practising lawyer. However, encouraged by her family, she sat the Bar exams and was called to the Bar in 1981. She did her pupillage at the Chambers of the then Attorney General, Sir Michael Havers QC.

She specialised in criminal law and, as a member of 18 Red Lion Court Chambers, her practice was predominantly in white collar crime, Customs and Excise offences and serious sexual offences, acting for both prosecution and defence. She had considerable experience of various professional disciplinary tribunals, including sitting as a Legal Assessor for the General Medical, General Dental and General Osteopath Councils. She also acted pro bono in Privy Council, defending those facing the death sentence. She took silk in 1998.

Linda was a member of a number of Bar Council committees, including General Management, Race Relations (of which she was previously Chair) and International Relations (Chair of the Africa Sub-Committee). She was also a past Chair of the Professional Standards Committee and the Criminal Bar Association, standing down from the latter when she was appointed a High Court judge. 

Linda was voted one of the 100 Great Black Britons and also appears in the 2015 Powerlist.

See Also: 
The Legal History, The Bar, The Judiciary and the Legal Eves sections.