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UK’s first ethnic minority judge dies aged 86

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He wore a turban instead of a horsehair wig

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The United Kingdom’s first ethnic minority judge, Sir Mota Singh QC, has passed away over the weekend, aged 86.

Singh — who was born in 1930 in Nairobi, Kenya — was found unconscious on Friday and was rushed to hospital. Sadly he did not recover.

Arriving in the UK in 1953, Singh immediately began studying to become a barrister. Having been called to the bar of England and Wales three years later, he returned to Kenya, before making the move to the UK permanent in 1965.

A devout Sikh, Singh made headlines when he became the first member of an ethnic minority to be elevated to the judiciary in 1979. Initially sitting as part-time recorder, he opted to wear his turban instead of the more traditional horsehair wig. He became a full-time circuit judge in 1982, spending most of his time at Southwark Crown Court in London, before retiring in 2002.

In 2010 Singh received a knighthood from the Queen for his charitable work and service as a judge. As news of his passing broke, a flood of tributes appeared on Twitter.

Speaking to Metro, his wife, Swaran Kaur, said:

He was a wonderful person who achieved so much in his life. He was so hard working.