First hijab-wearing UK court judge hopes to be ‘trailblazer’

, First hijab-wearing UK court judge hopes to be ‘trailblazer’Image copyright
St Mary’s Chambers

Image caption

Raffia Arshad has practised family law for more than 17 years

A woman who is the first UK deputy district judge to wear a hijab said she hoped to be a “trailblazer”.

Raffia Arshad, a member of St Mary’s Chambers in Nottingham, received her letter of appointment as judge for the Midlands circuit last week.

“I don’t just see it as a personal achievement, it is bigger than that,” the 40-year-old said.

The joint heads of St Mary’s Chambers said she had “led the way for Muslim women to succeed in the law”.

Judge Arshad, from Burton-upon-Trent, said: “I almost feel a little bit detached from it being me. It has become more about making sure I am inspiring others, no matter what background they’re from.

“It’s taken a while to get here but I’m so pleased. It’s not just a personal achievement. It’s a huge achievement for anyone from a diverse background.”

Judge Arshad, who was the first in her family to go to university, said she had “broken that stereotype” of what most people imagine judges look like and encouraged others, no matter what profession, to “aim high”.

“Don’t worry about what you look like, don’t worry about not fitting into the mould, break that mould and achieve what you need to,” she said.

The mother of three, who has practised family law for more than 17 years, said she was “indebted” to her husband “who has supported me immensely” and given her “space to pursue my passion”.

Judge Arshad, an expert in Islamic family law, said although the judicial office and appointments commission were doing their “absolute upmost”, the judiciary “is still not diverse enough”.

Vickie Hodges and Judy Claxton, joint heads of St Mary’s Chambers, said they were delighted about the appointment, which was “richly deserved” and “entirely on merit”.

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