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Neurodiversity Celebration Week: HHJ Dhir shares her experiences with dyslexia

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HHJ Anuja Dhir was appointed as a judge at the Old Bailey in 2017, a Circuit Judge in 2012 and a Recorder in 2010. In 2018 she was authorised to sit in the Court of Appeal Criminal Division. Here she tells her story.

How do you feel your experience with dyslexia has shaped you as you have progressed into the judiciary?
My daughter was diagnosed with dyslexia 10 years ago, I realised that she had got it from me. Until then I did not know I was dyslexic. All the signs were there, but it had not been picked up at school. People say dyslexia can be a gift. I am not sure I agree with that, but I do think it makes me better able to understand people and accommodate defendants and witnesses who have complex needs.

What are some of the reactions you’ve had when you’ve told people you are dyslexic and a judge?
There were no reactions at all. Our judiciary is now more diverse than it was when I started at the bar in the early 1990s. Judges now come in all shapes in sizes. I would say in many ways the bar and the judiciary are ideal professions for dyslexics and individuals with other special needs, because as judges we have experience of difficulty.

What would you say to someone with dyslexia worried about going into the legal profession?
Don’t worry. Dyslexia and other special needs are now better understood, and accommodations can and will be made. Don’t be afraid to ask for them.

Why do you think it is important to recognise and celebrate neurodiversity?
I think it is important and I am pleased it is happening. Talking about neurodiversity helps everyone to understand it better, to make proper adjustments for it and to accommodate it. It is a complex subject and we will all benefit from a better understanding of it.