OBV Profile: Amerdeep Somal

Amerdeep Somal currently serves as Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) commissioner for Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Northamptonshire police forces. She has been a staunch critic of the police when they have failed to protect their citizens. In 2006, when a woman was shot dead by her abusive husband after police failed to investigate her case, Somal was quoted as saying "the response by Derbyshire Police was abysmal. Collective failure by officers and their supervisors in Ashbourne Division meant no meaningful investigation took place".

Among the most fulfilling parts of her work is the thought that she is making a difference. "At the IPCC it's important to me that I am making the complaints system against the police more transparent. It gives complainants a more visible role with the police discipline system. I want to make sure that the system is fair to complainants and police officers alike".

As well as her role as an IPCC commissioner, Somal is also a Judge of the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal. Here, she values the opportunity to help make society fairer. "It is very important that those who appear before me leave the hearing feeling that they have had a fair opportunity to present their case. I want them to feel that they have said all they wanted to say in helping me to reach a balanced decision". She also gains a lot from her immigration and asylum work and explains that the experience has enriched her personally. "I have learned so much about the traditions, cultures, persecution climate and political conditions of so many countries from around the world. It has been professionally and personally rewarding".

Since 2003 she has also been Legal Chair of the Special Educational Needs and Disability Tribunal which gives parents whose children have special educational needs the opportunity to appeal against decisions made by local education authorities about their children's education. "The reason I got into this is that I know that there has been difficulty with some Asian families accepting disability. I though that if people could see that there are women involved who are making decisions about their children, whether they have a learning difficulty or disability, it might give them the confidence to seek the legal redress they can have around making sure the child gets the right support to flourish in an educational environment.

Somal was born and raised in Coventry in the West Midlands. Her parents had come to England from Punjab, India, in 1950 as economic migrants. Like many who can identify parents or grandparents who came to the Britain from abroad, Amerdeep is aware and proud of her dual heritage. "I have learned to adapt and to embrace British culture. If my parents had not come to Britain then I would not be in the position that I am in today. I am where I am because of the opportunities that Britain has offered me. I fully appreciate those opportunities while at the same time the things that we can, through our culture and heritage bring to the UK. I am very proud to be of Indian descent and brought up in Britain".

Amerdeep counts Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Madela among her most influential role models. "With Gandhi it was his struggle against British rule in India and bringing together state and cast systems with Mandela it was his courage in fighting apartheid both politically and on a personal level through the apartheid years". Asked about the impact these modern day icons had on her life, she said that their work had helped her to foster "a strong interest in human rights, justice and fairness".

More than once Amerdeep has been honoured for her work in the community. Though deeply modest, she highlighted one award which was of particular personal importance. In 2002 she received an honour from the Attorney General in recognition of her national fight against domestic violence. "That was a personal award rather than a team one. It is one that stands out in my recollection and is for tackling violence against women in the Asian community, particularly south Asian women". The award also recognised her work with Roshni Asian Women's Aid charity where she sat on the management committee on a voluntary basis. "It is very important that you bring charities and voluntary groups with you when you try to implement national policy".

Asked her future plans, the mother of two said that she would "like to continue furthering my contribution to ensuring that human rights, equality and diversity are embedded throughout society. It's not just about talking it but about living it and feeling it". She would also like to see these principles embedded in the political sphere. "I think that it's really important to have an inclusion agenda. In recent years, there has been more of a focus on particular groups and there is a risk that there may be dissatisfaction and dissent among other groups who may feel that they don't have such a strong voice politically or in the press. I think that it is important that you take all communities with you".