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Why our Human Rights Act me as an ethnic minority within the legal profession

Keysha is a corporate paralegal with a BA Hons in Law, currently studying for her MSc in Human Rights at the University of London. She also assists start-up companies in legal analysis, administration and developing their equality policies with her business ' Your Law Assistant'. As a passionate advocate for human rights and equality, Keysha has volunteered for a number of charities including Prisoners of Conscience and Human Rights Solidarity. 

Please note, this is a guest blog and views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the views of BIHR.

Within the last decade, the proportion of ethnic minorities in the legal professions and judiciary increased from 13% to 16%, however the evidence shared by GOV.UK states that, ‘individuals from an Asian/Asian British or black/black British background were less likely to be recommended for appointment [to be a judge] relative to white candidates.’ (Diversity of the judiciary: Legal professions, new appointments and current post-holders - 2023 Statistics - GOV.UK (

From the age of 14, at secondary school, when my passion for law began, I was advised vehemently to reconsider my passion and take into consideration how difficult it would be for a young black, woman who comes from a low-income, single-parent household to succeed within a legal profession. At this tender age, my intrigue for human rights began. I wanted to know, why not me, why can’t I, what makes me any different to anyone else and what rights do I have to at least try and pursue my love for law?

Although, I came to the understanding that law was not historically a diverse sector- for example, as recently as 1913, black barristers were not permitted to dine with their white counterparts at the Gray’s Inn (one of four professional associations for barristers). Archaic laws still determined who could dominate and who would be the minority. I still felt drawn to my right to be free from this discrimination.

A report undertaken by experts from The University of Manchester and barrister Keir Monteith KC raised questions about racial attitudes and practises within the justice system, drawing a survey on 373 legal professionals. 95% of respondents reported that racial bias does play a role in the processes, with black barristers reporting racism from judges, magistrates and panel members.


Judges are usually seen - and often see themselves - as neutral arbiters, but this can be far from the truth. Our findings show that from their demeanour to their decision-making, judges often play a role in fuelling and normalising the terrible disparities in our legal system. The sooner this is widely realised, the sooner change can be instigated. - Professor Eithne Quinn - the report's academic lead author


Article 14 of the Human Right Act states that, ‘The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.’ This, together with the Equality Act, provides not just protection against but the impetus to continuously tackle the disparities that exist, the institutional racism and inequality within the legal professional world, so that BAME individuals who are entering the world of law do not experience deprivation of opportunity, based on their race.

Schemes such as the Judicial Diversity Forum which is ‘aimed at encouraging diversity, inclusion and progression within the solicitor profession’, allowing for more underrepresented ethnic minorities to view law as an option and have access to the same opportunities as other races. As I mentioned, law was not historically an inclusive sector and legislation such as the Human Rights Act and Equality Act has played a vital role in developing diversity and equality.

Without human rights, we would be weaker in our ability to fight for our right to practise law, to even consider it. The law protects us against forms of racism, discrimination and equality, while being a driving force behind the institutions to continue improving their standards and approach to racial bias.

The Human Rights Act empowered me, despite my socioeconomic background and the racial disparities placed in my way, to pursue my passions and be allowed the freedom to do so. Although, there is still much more work to be done to improve the disparities, The Human Rights Act means that they can no longer just be ignored. Giving  not just me, but generations afterwards,  the right to make a difference, be seen and be heard within legal professions, regardless of their race, religion or background.

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