Sir Rabinder Singh

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The Honourable Mr Justice Singh became Britain’s first male ethnic minority and Sikh High Court judge in 2011.

He was also the first person of Asian origin and the youngest person, at the age of 39, to sit in the High Court when he was appointed as a Deputy High Court judge in 2003.

Rabinder assumed the role of High Court judge in the Queen’s Bench Division and since 2013 has been one of the Presiding Judges on the South Eastern Circuit.

He was one of the founding members of the  human rights set,  Matrix Chambers, along with Cherie Booth QC, in 2000. He was a leading silk at all levels, from the Employment Tribunal to the Privy Council, the Supreme Court, the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights – involved in many high-profile cases, including on Iraq.

A few of his victorious cases were: representing Liberty and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants in the case against the Government over the refusal of benefits to refugees; acting for the nine Afghan asylum seekers who hijacked a plane at gunpoint to get into Britain, proposing that they should have been allowed to remain in the country on human rights grounds; representing the Al-Skeini family and other families of civilians killed during the British occupation of South East Iraq, arguing that the Human Rights Act applied extra-territorially; and acting for Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers Peter Herbert in disciplinary proceedings brought against him by the Bar Council after he accused the body of ‘institutionalised racism’. The Bar Council eventually dropped the action against him.

Rabinder was born in 1964 in Delhi to a Sikh family. He grew up in Bristol and won a local council scholarship to the independent Bristol Grammar School. Asked in a BLD interview why he chose law as a career, he replied: “I suppose from an early age it was of interest to me. I liked the thought of being an advocate. I had a vague idea that it was about helping people to assert their rights. It was vague because I didn’t know any lawyers other than from television and books.”

He went on to graduate with a double first in Law from Trinity College, Cambridge in 1985 and then obtained his Master of Laws from the University of California in Berkeley, where he was a Harkness Fellow, in 1986.

Once back from California, Rabinder became a lecturer in Law at the University of Nottingham until 1988. He then attended the Inns of Court School of Law to undertake his final examinations and was called to the Bar (Lincon’s Inn) in 1989.

Rabinder did his pupillage at 4-5 Gray's Inn Square, where he remained there for more than 10 years, specialising in Public and Administrative Law, Employment Law, European Community Law, Human Rights law, Commercial Law and Media Law. His fellow tenant at 4-5 Gray's Inn Square was Cherie Booth QC and together with five other tenants from 4-5 Gray's Inn Square, along with 16 barristers from other chambers, set up Matrix Chambers in 2000.

Rabinder then took silk in 2002 before being appointed as a Recorder of the Crown Court in 2004. 

He has won numerous awards and distinctions during his career, including being named Barrister of the Year by The Lawyer magazine; winning the legal Excellence Award at the Asian Jewel Awards; and being granted an honorary Doctorate of Laws by the London Metropolitan University. Back in 2005, Rabinder was named the joint winner (with Kim Hollis QC) of the Society of Asian Lawyers award for Most Successful Lawyer in 2005.

He was a visiting Professor of Law at the London School of Economics from 2003 until 2009; has been an Honorary Professor of Law at the University of Nottingham since 2007; and is a Visitor at Brunel University.

Rabinder was Chair of the Bar Council’s Equality and Diversity (Race and Religion) committee from 2003 until 2006; was Chair of the Constitutional and Administrative Law Bar Association from 2006 until 2008 and became a Bencher of Lincoln’s Inn in 2009. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.  

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