Tanweer Ikram was appointed by the Queen as Deputy Senior District Judge (Chief Magistrate), one of the top roles in the judiciary, earlier this year.
Based at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Tan has leadership responsibility for the 300 District Judges (Magistrates’ Courts) and Deputy DJMCs across England and Wales.
The 51-year-old was called to the Bar in 1990 and admitted as a solicitor in 1993 after graduating from the University of Wolverhampton. In 2015 he was awarded an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Law from the University’s Faculty of Social Sciences for his contribution to law.
Here, Tan describes his working day:
“I like to be the first in and prepare for the day ahead. It means I can miss the crush of the rush hour, relax with some tunes in the quiet of my room and catch up with reading and judgments before anyone else is in.
I have the most amazing job. No two days are alike and the cases are varied.
I support the Senior District Judge in her court workload of high profile, sensitive and difficult criminal cases. Additionally, I deal with terrorism and extradition cases which are unique to Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
My other significant role is providing leadership to the 137 district judges in the magistrates’ courts as well as the 125 deputy judges across the country.
I attend various meetings which range from law reform to the swathe of management challenges and reforms confronting the magistrates’ courts. I am fortunate that I studied management at university as the skills there are so different, and yet so similar, to managing the people and cases in a courtroom.
I am also the deputy lead diversity and community relations judge and am involved in all sorts of projects to support a more diverse judiciary and engaging with the community in dispelling myths about who we are and what we do.
I have just returned from an international conference in Iceland on what more we can do to promote gender equality. In the next few weeks, I will be hosting judges from China and talking to newly qualified barristers about advocacy as well as having school students shadowing me in court.
A lot of what I do is outside the courtroom and often in my own time. I hope I can make a real difference both in relation to public perceptions about us, as much as making sound decisions on the cases I hear. I am privileged in the opportunity I have been given to contribute in so many ways. I am also very fortunate to have excellent lawyers appear before me. It makes making decisions much easier, being assisted by advocates who test the evidence thoroughly and can assist me on the law. My life would be so much tougher without them.
Next week, I am off to sit as a judge in the heat of the Sovereign Base Area in Cyprus. I will be the only judge on the British territory and will deal with anything that comes my way, whether a civil injunction, criminal trial or a deceased’s body I need to deal with as coroner. It is a million miles away in scenery but I call on the same basic skills of best managing the available resources and knowing where to look up the law.
I have to say that it is a challenge to keep up-to-date with such a wide range of work. In my so-called spare time, I do some writing on a textbook to help me refresh my own knowledge.
My real passion, however, is classic cars and I have had my 1961 3.4 Mark 2 Jaguar out in the sun over the last week.
It was the preferred choice of getaway drivers in the bank robberies of the 1960s, though mine rarely starts when I turn the key; my life sure isn’t perfect…”