Ethnic Minority Lawyers Division

Sir Mota Singh QC tribute

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Read our tribute to Sir Mota Singh who died in November

On 11 November 2016, Sir Mota Singh QC passed away. He was the first ethnic minority to be appointed as a circuit judge to the English Bench.

He was called to the Bar in 1967 and was a leading specialist in landlord and tenant law before his appointment in 1979 as a recorder by the lord chancellor. In 1982, he was the first member of an ethnic minority to be appointed as a circuit judge in this country and later on became the first deputy presiding judge at Southwark Crown Court.

Sir Mota Singh QC also made history in being the first ‘turbaned barrister’ and then the first judge to wear a turban, instead of a horse-hair wig, on the Bench. He retired from the Bench in 2002 and was knighted in 2010 for his services to the judiciary and for his charitable work.

We must never forget the hurdles that Sir Mota Singh QC faced in his journey to becoming the first ethnic minority to sit on the Bench. The Bar was and still is to some existent; a ‘closed shop’ to non-white barristers and he would have faced profound difficulties in being accepted by the legal establishment after emigrating from Kenya in 1965. Sir Mota Singh QC should be remembered for his commitment to his ethnic minority identity and that talent and tenacity can overcome any obstacle.

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