Raja takes the Bench


After years of community involvement, Raja Basharat Ali will devotedly continue his civic service; this time as a magistrate for North East London. Selected in September, Ali is confident the skills he has gained from participating in the Magistrates Shadowing Scheme will steer him in making the right decisions in the court.

Always playing an active role in his community, it is not surprising Ali wanted to become a magistrate. He volunteered as a special constable for the police and served as a witness support volunteer for the crown court. Later, Ali worked as a custody visitor, going to police stations and speaking to detainees to make sure they were treated fairly.

Ali was also an Operational Area Manager for the Central Line of the London Underground for many years. During his professional life, he disagreed with some of the court decisions being made and wished he had the opportunity to alter them to make a difference:

I wanted to give something back to the community I was a part of and wanted to represent the people in it.”

A few years ago, Ali developed this interest in the judicial system by becoming a member of OBV’s Magistrates Shadowing Scheme. The scheme, which was funded by the Ministry of Justice, aims to address the deficit of BME magistrates and increase awareness and demystify the work of the courts:

If you are willing to put yourself out, the team at OBV are willing to support you completely.”

He is especially complimentary of OBV’s Deputy Director Francine Fernandes, who supported Ali duration his application. He is thankful for the guidance he received from Francine during his six months of shadowing from Redbridge Magistrates court where he gained the skills and experience needed to become a magistrate.

Ali will see a variety of cases, but his biggest interest is in the youth court. Instead of giving them a conviction, he is looking for ways the youth can make a contribution to society, because they are our future.

Ali recommends other people to become magistrates, but warns them of the contemplation, dedication and commitment involved for the position. It requires patience and the ability to listen for a long time; throughout the day as there is a lot of evidence to listen to and reports to read:

You are making decisions on people’s livelihoods, so the job isn’t done lightly and requires a lot of thought. Representing the court system also gives you a lot of responsibility.”

He admits:

Sometimes it’s draining when you have been concentrating all day and making decisions,”

But I enjoy it immensely because I am working with really nice people who are willing to help and guide me.”

Francine Fernandes, Deputy Director of Operation Black Vote said:

Raja's commitment to serve his community is to be commended and I am delighted that he has been appointed and will not only benefit individuals from North East London, but also acts as an inspiration to all."

Ali is appreciative of how welcoming the other magistrates are, willing to share their experiences with him and working towards benefiting society.

He is looking forward to continuing his contributions to the justice system.

Well done Raja.

Nilay Tuncok