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26 June 2024
Diversity, disparity and inclusion

As we approach the end of Pride month, Maz Edwards shares her experience of being a Trans female magistrate and reflects on the importance of a truly inclusive judiciary.

The text reads: member blog, Maz Edwards. It is accompanied by Maz's photo.

As the newest member of our diversity and inclusion committee, where I am one of two LGBTQ+ representatives, I am quite excited and also very nervous about writing this blog. I have never actually written a blog before, and I am writing it to you, my peers within the magistracy.

I joined the North Somerset Bench in the summer of 2002. It was then a small-ish bench of around 112, most of whom were towards the older end of the spectrum, as was the norm in those days.

I immediately drew attention, as although in my mid-40s, I had very long hair which I wore in a ponytail. Two years later, I caused even more of a stir when I started transitioning from male to female. Although this had been discussed and agreed with the Advisory Committee, it had been kept secret until the agreed date. I took an agreed sabbatical to become “comfortable” in my new role and prepared myself for my return to court duties. I was extremely anxious to see what reception I would receive, but I needn’t have worried. When I returned for my first day back in court, I was given an extremely warm welcome by all of the staff and colleagues, and even applause from the advocates when I entered the courtroom. It just seemed so completely normal after that.

There was one incident when a very stuffy chair refused to talk to me or even look at me, and I was completely ignored on the bench. I called him out immediately with the deputy clerk to the justices, who stood the bench down. The person concerned was reminded of his oath and given some words of advice by the deputy clerk and sent home. Some weeks later we were rota’d to sit together again. And on this occasion, he was perfectly behaved, and an extremely attentive and inclusive chair. It could not have been a more different experience for me. We sat together many more times until his untimely passing from cancer. I truly miss him.

Since those days, there have been many changes to the court service. We have much larger benches and are currently in clusters – mine is Avon, Somerset and Gloucester. I have noticed that despite all the “culture wars” being waged by some members of society and stirred up by elements of the press, the magistracy has remained true to our oath and values, with maybe the odd small slip here and there. It is my sincere hope that with the new training regime taking its place, equality, diversity and inclusivity will feature high up in the agenda, and where it does not, the Magistrates’ Association will step in to bridge that void and ensure, as it always has, that we are the very best we can be towards each other, and all who come before us in court.

I have recently been interviewed by Maria Moore, the magazine editor, so watch out for that in the autumn edition of Magistrate.

So, from this “out” Trans female magistrate, I wish you all a very happy and proud Pride Month. May you be safe and secure just being you and may all your experiences be positive.