Dame Linda Penelope Dobbs, DBR (born 3 January 1951) in Freetown, Sierra Leone is a retired High Court Judge England and Wales, who served from 2004 to 2013. Dobbs was the first non-white person to be appointed to the senior judiciary of England and Wales.
Dame Dobbs studied Russian and Law at the University of Surrey, graduating in 1976. She went to the London School of Economics and Political Science where she obtained a Masters degree in Law, followed by a Doctorate in Soviet criminology and penology.
She was called to the Bar in 1981 and started practising from 5 King’s Bench Walk, the chambers of the then Attorney-General Sir Michael Havers QC. She had a mixed criminal practice, but in later years specialised in fraud and professional disciplinary tribunals, including the General Medical and Dental Councils. She took silk in 1998.
She was a member of Bar Council Committees and chaired the Professional Standards Committee and the Race Relations Committee. In 2003, she became the Chairperson of the Criminal Bar Association, the biggest specialist association at the Bar. ( https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/equityDiversityInclusion/2011/03/lse-women-linda-dobbs/)
Throughout her career she experienced racism and sexism from colleagues and clients, the attitude of the many solicitors who did not want to instruct a woman, either because they, or, more likely, their client, considered them to be inferior.
In an interview with 5 years ago for “Legal Cheek” she recalls representing a male client on a drink driving charge, who made very clear that he did not want a female barrister. When he was — in her opinion — unjustly acquitted, he did not say thank you, but instead continued to scold his solicitor for instructing a woman.
But it was neither her solicitors nor her clients but her own clerks who placed the biggest obstacles in her path. She recalls they even went as far as to Tippex her name from briefs sent to her to ensure that work intended for her was instead given to a male rival for the tenancy.
Oddly, however, she would be booked to represent members from the extreme right-wing political party the National Front, who had been charged with throwing a brick through an Asian shopkeeper’s window. The clerk giving her the brief told her “just do an Al Jolson in reverse… get a bit of tennis white and do that to your face and they won’t know the difference.”
In 2004 she was appointed a Judge in the High Courts. Ms Dobbs said in an interview after her appointment: “It is a great honour to have been invited by the Lord Chancellor to become a High Court judge. Whilst this appointment might be seen as casting me into the role of standard bearer, I am simply a practitioner following a career path. I am confident, nevertheless, that I am the first of many to come.”
Many Thanks Rowena Bent