The Attorney General, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, recently gave a speech followed by a brief question and answer session at the Rainbow Arch Church in Wood Green, North London, hosted by the Peace Alliance and chaired by Rev Nims Obunge.
The speech evoked her seemingly impossible journey from law student to becoming the first black Attorney General, as well as the first woman to hold the post in more than 700 years.
In a gathering of law students, faith leaders and community organisers the Baroness delivered a vivid and candid description of her inspirational and unlikely journey.
“Growing up I was one of twelve kids. My parents always said they had 12 ‘only-child. They also said that what joins us together is greater than what divides us”
She went on to emphasis the importance of the people working with the government in order to deliver justice noting: “Individuals find it hard to make progress. We try to achieve unity of action. This has been at the heart of our (the government’s) approach. In 2003 I said the words yes we can. Someone I know borrowed those words in their 2008 campaign. We can be ready to see the change we want to see in the World and have to be ready to take the first steps. If we walk other people will walk”.
On the government initiatives to achieve this: “The Green Paper published in April (last year) is a reflection of the fact that the criminal justice system belongs to the people it serves. It has given the public more information on what is going on within the criminal justice system. It feeds their heart into the system”
“Since 1997 we have seen a reduction in crime and an increase in the number of people brought to justice”.
Chuka Udemezue, Co-Chair of Society of Black Lawyers (SBL) in a question was keen to point out the disproportionate effect the current recession and reforms in legal services has had on BME barristers and solicitors, particularly those at the lower rung of their careers. He also drew attention to the fact that it was unfortunate that the SBL has taken a hard line in explaining the risks associated with embarking on a legal career to young aspiring BME lawyers, particularly the potential debt that could be amassed and the dearth of training contracts available. The Baroness expressed some sympathy with Udemezue’s perspective, but highlighted the importance of SBL’s role in encouraging young people to join the profession. Scotland also emphasised that she would not want to be the first and last female BME lawyer to hold such a prestigious position.
Furthermore, she stated: “Don’t let anybody tell you government and choices can’t make a difference. They can. I’ve always carried on because it’s never been about me. It’s hard not to give up sometimes but you can’t. As long as there is work to be done we can’t give up. Therefore partnership is important because it is harder on your own. Together we can. I can’t promise you this journey will be easy. All I can promise you is that together we can”.
By Richard Sudan
Filed under: Black Representation