Alexandra Wilson, despite being disarmingly modest and without a hint of pretension, is a steadfast and rational voice speaking out in a confused and ultimately rather unhappy period of time for our Sceptered Isle.
Issues of discrimination and marginalisation seem to swell and appear to be even more unconquerable alongside the ominous widening of the gap between rich and poor in the UK which now makes us the 5th most unequal country in Europe.
Alexandra revealed, “I started thinking about a career in law when I was 17-years-old, that stemmed mainly from the murder of a close family friend. His death made me think about criminal justice.”
She continued, “At that time I didn’t know any lawyers, I didn’t even know how I could become a lawyer, but that was the first engagement I had with that world.”
Alexandra’s family friend had been assumed to be a member of a gang on the basis of his ethnicity and his death was a tremendous catalyst to her discipline and ambition to tackle some of the most problematic issues within our criminal justice system, principally pertaining to race.
Alexandra went on to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University.
She said, “My thesis examined police shootings of young African Americans in the U.S., and how this impacted young people’s attitudes to the police which is of course incredibly topical now.”
She continued solemnly, “ I find it devastating that I wrote that thesis more than five years ago and at the time I thought that in half a decade we would be in a much better place, clearly that’s not the case.”
She added. “At that stage I became focused on pursuing a career in criminal justice. I needed to work in an area where I felt that I could make a difference particularly in relation to many of the disparities which I saw in relation to race.”
Now Alexandra is a barrister with the Five St Andrew’s Hill chambers in London. She is the author of the remarkable book ‘In Black and White: A Young Barrister’s story of Race and Class in a Broken Justice System’ and she is also the co-founder of a new charity ‘One Case At A Time’ which provides, amongst many things, financial support to disenfranchised minorities who are going through the justice system.
Moreover, she is determined to speak out and shine a spotlight on prejudices and harmful assumptions surrounding race. In September Alexandra was mistaken for a defendant three times in the course of one day, an experience which she told me occurs all too often.
That day she wrote a tweet, it read ‘Today I was assumed to be a defendant 3 times and a journalist once (lol). There MUST be something about my face that says “not a barrister” because I am literally wearing a black suit like everyone else. I don’t get it. Today it actually upset me a bit but… we move x’.
The tweet went viral and spread like wildfire across the internet and was picked up by nearly every media outlet in the country. Since then, the head of the courts service in England and Wales has apologised to Alexandra.
Kevin Sadler, the acting chief executive of HM Courts and Tribunals Service condemned the “totally unacceptable behaviour” and has promised to investigate.
Alexandra revealed, “The reason I tweeted about it on that particular day was because I was so tired of it, it felt overwhelmingly exhausting.”
She added. “ I didn’t expect that Tweet to get picked up in the way that it did; but the fact that it did highlighted to me how many people are affected by this. The bigger issue is that black people are being overcriminalized, and that’s why this is happening.”