A Black attorney from England gained attention on social media Wednesday, Sept. 23, for recounting an incident at the magistrate’s office where she was misidentified as a defendant three times that day.
In a series of posts on Twitter, Alexandra Wilson began her story by explaining how she wanted to bring attention to cases like hers that continue to persist in the workplace.
“I thought I’d explain what happened today because I’m absolutely exhausted and tbh(sic) I think a light needs to be shone on this,” she wrote. “Especially given so many people like me seem to experience the same thing.”
Wilson said she came to court that day without wearing the traditional wig and gown common in magistrate courts, as they were not required.
A security officer stopped her to “ ‘find [my] name on the list’ (the list of defendants).” When Wilson explained she that was a barrister, he apologized and let her through.
Wilson said she tried to shrug off the encounter as an innocent mistake, but the uncomfortable episodes would not end there.
As she attempted to enter the courtroom to discuss a case with the prosecutor, she was halted again, this time by a member of the public who mistook Wilson for a journalist and informed her that only lawyers could enter. The usher, who recognized Wilson as a lawyer, allowed her to go in.
She was stopped again by a solicitor who explained that she needed to wait outside the court until the usher arrived to sign Wilson in, and then wait for the court to call her for her case.
“I explained I’m a barrister,” Wilson wrote. “She looked embarrassed and said ‘Oh. I see.’”
Wilson proceeded toward the clerk when she was interrupted once more.
“The clerk, VERY loudly, told me to leave the courtroom and said the usher would be out shortly. Before I could respond she then asked if I was represented,” said Wilson.
“I, AGAIN, explained that I am a defense barrister trying to speak to the prosecutor. She looked at me, said ‘Oh right, Ok,’ and continued with what she was doing.
Eventually, Wilson was able to converse with the prosecutor and proceed with the case. However, afterward, she filed an official complaint.
“This really isn’t ok though,” she tweeted. “I don’t expect to have to constantly justify my existence at work.”
Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, a national body representing lawyers in the U.K, called the incident “appalling” and said that it “is not a one-off.” She released a statement saying that measures needed to be undertaken to eradicate behavior of that nature.
On Thursday, Kevin Sadler, the acting chief executive of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), responded to Wilson’s tweets with a formal apology.
“I‘m very sorry about your experience at court yesterday – it is totally unacceptable behavior and I’m investigating the role of my staff and contractors as a matter of urgency,” Sadler said. “This is not the behavior anyone should expect and certainly does not reflect our values.” Sadler requested that Wilson send him further details so that he could make a more comprehensive response.
In an interview with the BBC, Wilson said that she was “grateful” for Sadler’s apology and hoped that “some real change” will result from the incident.