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Changing Peoples Lives

AndrewOBV’s Simon Woolley is delighted to hear about a graduate from the magistrates scheme, Andrew Thomas (pictured) making it to the bench

By Simon Woolley

I’ve said this before and no doubt I’ll say it again; sometimes fighting for race equality can, at times, seem like a thankless task.

And then, when you least expect it, you get fantastically surprised. Take this morning. I’m taking my son to school. It’s his first few weeks at ‘the big school’ and today he is having his photo taken. So we don’t want to be late.

But neither do the other 100 or so parents, so it’s kind of stressful. Then I get a tap on the shoulder outside the school gates. “Simon, how you doing? I’m going to attend some of your Black History month events next week. Oh, and by the way, did your colleague Merlene tell you the good news?”

“What good news?” I reply, racking my brains as to where I know this young man from. “Well, last week, thanks to your team at OBV, I was sworn in as one of Her Majesty’s Magistrates”.

I looked at the young man, and then it all come in to place… Andrew! He was on one of our schemes in 2008, and has gotten through. “Andrew”, I said, wanting to hug him – my son looking at me with that look – (“Dad I thought we were late”) – “this has completely made my day. It’s great news”.

I’m pleased for Andrew Thomas (pictured above) in so many ways. A young Black man sitting on Her Majesty’s benches dispensing justice brings so much more assurance, particularly to the Black community, that justice is seen to be more equitably dispensed.

For his family it is a moment of great pride that their son is to play such an important civic role. And for the young man himself the confidence that this brings is perhaps immeasurable. Andrew said

“I am floating on cloud 9! I still can’t believe that I have achieved becoming a Magistrate; it means the world to me. It’s an honour and I hope to be a great role model for others in my community.”


A proud day for the Thomas Family

I’d like to pay tribute to Andrew, and his Magistrate mentor, Mrs Francis Niman JP – and the many other BME men and women on the schemes who are literally changing the face of our criminal justice system.

I’d also like to pay tribute to Merlene Carrington – herself a Magistrate, an OBV alumni and Project Coordinator for the Magistrates Shadowing Scheme – and Francine Fernandes who heads up OBV’s Shadowing Schemes.

It is these small success stories that often make the biggest impact in our communities and wider society.

Well done Andrew, we’re very proud of you.

One Response

  1. Well done Andrew.

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