KEY POINTS

  • Alexandra Wilson said she was mistaken for a defendant by a security officer, a solicitor and a clerk  
  • She said the experience left her "absolutely exhausted"
  • Wilson said she decided to speak out as many people like her "seem to experience the same thing"

A Black British lawyer said she was mistaken for a defendant three times in a day at a magistrate's court Wednesday. Officials apologized to the woman after she lodged a formal complaint.

Alexandra Wilson, 25, from Essex, told BBC that she was misidentified by at least three court officials which left her "absolutely exhausted."

When Wilson went to the court Wednesday, a security guard asked for her name and searched for it on the day's list of defendants. "I explained I was a barrister. He apologized and guided me through security," Wilson told BBC.

She said she was not wearing the traditional wig and gown at the time as they were not mandatory in magistrate courts. 

Wilson shared her experience in a series of tweets Thursday.

In one of the tweets, Wilson said as she made it to the courtroom, a solicitor asked her to wait outside and to sign in with an usher. "I explained I'm a barrister. She looked embarrassed and said 'oh. I see'," Wilson said.

The humiliation didn't end there.

Wilson said when she tried to approach the prosecutor to have a conversation, a clerk asked her to leave the court. "Before I got there the clerk, VERY loudly, told me to leave the courtroom and said the usher would be out shortly. Before I could respond she then asked if I was represented," Wilson said.

"I, AGAIN, explained that I am a defence barrister trying to speak to the prosecutor. She looked at me, said 'oh right, ok' and continued with what she was doing," she added.

"I thought I'd explain what happened today because I'm absolutely exhausted and tbh I think a light needs to be shone on this," Wilson tweeted. "Especially given so many people like me seem to experience the same thing."

Wilson registered a formal complaint after this.

Kevin Sadler, the acting chief executive of Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS), issued an apology. "I'm very sorry about your experience at court yesterday — it is totally unacceptable behavior and I’m investigating the role of my staff and contractors as a matter of urgency," Sadler said in a tweet.

In addition, Wilson said she was stopped by a woman outside the court, who told her "only lawyers can go in".

Wilson told BBC that she was "grateful" for the apology from Sadler and hoped her experience brings "some real change."

Calling the incident "appalling", Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, a national body representing lawyers in the U.K, said the incident "is not a one off." In a statement, she said steps have to be taken to stamp out such behavior.

British Court In this representational image, the statue of justice stands on the copula of the Old Bailey courthouse in London, Dec. 17, 2003. Photo: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images