Meet the UK’s first blind, black, female barrister – who wants to change people’s perception of what lawyers look like | UK news | Daily News Byte


As she looks to the future, Britain’s first blind, black, female barrister says her achievement “hasn’t sunk in yet”.

After five years at university, Jessicah Inabah, 24, qualified in early 2022 and will now seek a studentship – in which newly qualified barristers get their first placement in chambers – when applications open in January 2023.

“It hasn’t sunk in enough yet,” he tells Sky News. “Once I’m actively in my scholarship phase, I hope that will happen.”

Originally from Lewisham, South London, Mrs Inabah is known as Jess to friends and family. She says she hopes to break down barriers.

“I’m sure when people imagine lawyers, a young black woman with a white cane isn’t the first image they have, but hopefully I’m able to change that image.”

Some of the UK’s biggest legal bodies – including the four Inns of Court, the Bar Council and the Bar Standards Board – could not find another example of a blind and black barrister.

Jess’s fight to change these perceptions began when she was a young child. After spells aspiring to be a singer, historian and writer, she came “full circle”, in her words, deciding at 18 to study law.

As a student in London, she faced a number of challenges, including a lack of study materials in Braille—the tactile method she uses to read. This meant that she had to rely on the help of her friends, teachers and her family, including her younger brother, who was nine years old at the time.

“It was difficult for him, but I would write Braille as he would read,” she recalls. “I’ll give him the page references, and he’ll find them 100 years from now.

“When he finally gets there, I’ll have him read some headlines, and we’ll find the exact headline I’m looking for.

“It was the only way I could get through my graduation, so I had no social life.”

During Jess’ studies, the support she received from her family was invaluable, as she came close to breaking point on several occasions due to the stress of her coursework.

For her, completing her degree was a way to “say thank you” to her parents for raising her like her siblings, even though she never had meaningful interaction with a blind person before she was born.

In her time spent working with clients as part of her studies, she has found that being blind has helped her build stronger relationships with some people, especially those from minority backgrounds.

She said: “When they see me and I introduce myself, I explain the assistive technology I have and how it works. And how I’m going to notice them. They suddenly open up. Me and Tell me how they’re feeling or what they need me to do.”

That’s a sentiment shared by Bar Council head of equality and diversity Sam Mercer that representation is important.

She told Sky News: “It’s very important that barristers reflect the diversity of our own society because I think it means people have more confidence in the justice system, in access to justice.”

Last year, the Bar Council completed a landmark report addressing inequality and proposed a series of recommendations for action, which found that individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds who aspire to become barristers find it difficult to secure scholarships.

The figures also show a black woman who is a publicly funded junior criminal barrister with the same level of experience as her white counterpart will bill £18,700 a year less on average.

At the time of the report, in England and Wales, there were only five black or black British women Kings Counsel (KC’s), a highly prestigious legal position, while only 1% of judges were black. This year, however, the Bar Council’s follow-up report found that nine out of 10 chambers had adopted one or more Race at the Bar recommendations. This includes mentoring and work experience programmes.

Shingi Barrister

A number of chambers have also worked with an organization called Bridging the Bar, which has identified students from diverse backgrounds and provided them with barrister mentors.

Ms Mercer thinks people like Jess provide important reference points for people from minority backgrounds. “I think the importance of Jess and others as role models should really be remembered,” she said. “Because I think if people see someone who has overcome a disadvantage and worked to become a professional barrister, that makes a difference.”

After overcoming the hurdle of law school, Jess is excited about the future. His goals probably include becoming a judge and teaching law.

Her advice to those looking to follow in her footsteps and break down barriers is simple: “If you want to be a barrister or whatever, but you feel like society says your disability, or your race, or your race means That you can’t achieve what you want to achieve, prove them wrong.

“Show them that you can do it and that you know that they are unable to dictate your life or determine your future.”


Source link