From black belt to the bench: Martial arts expert, 37, appointed to judiciary

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Don’t mess with Siew Ying Loke

Image credit: Tang Sou Dao website

A government barrister who moonlights as a martial arts teacher has been appointed to the bench.

Siew Ying Loke, who currently advises the Attorney General’s Office on issues relating to criminal and public law, is set to become an immigration judge in the first-tier tribunal. The 37-year-old lawyer’s new role will be based in London and will take effect from 14 May 2018, according to a statement published on the judiciary’s website.

What the statement omits is that Loke is effectively a deadly weapon. This is because the University of Exeter grad is also a martial arts master with a sixth-degree black belt, who spends her time teaching self-defence (when she isn’t offering legal pointers to Jeremy Wright QC, that is).

Image credit: Tang Sou Dao website

“Many people ask me if I have ever got bored of training, having trained now for over twenty-five years. I can honestly say that although I have been frustrated at times, I have never been bored,” Loke explains on her instructor profile. The former Lamb Building barrister continues:

“Training has been an integral part of my own personal growth and self-discovery throughout the years and that has not stopped yet.”

Interestingly, Loke is not the only lawyer to share a passion for martial arts. Civil law barrister Sarah Robson shot to Legal Cheek fame in 2013 when she produced an interesting martial arts video of herself breaking pieces of wood.

Back to Loke, and her appointment is unusual not just because of her martial arts passion, but also her sprightly age. In a similar vein, Hardwicke barrister Sarah Venn has been appointed a circuit judge on the south eastern circuit. Venn — who will be 41 when she starts her new role later this year — becomes one of the youngest circuit judges ever appointed.

The latest comments from across Legal Cheek

Commenting on Venn’s move to the bench, Harwicke’s joint head of chambers, PJ Kirby QC, said:

“We are absolutely thrilled for Sarah at this very well deserved appointment. She will be an asset to the south eastern circuit and her appointment is a refreshing signal of growing judicial diversity. We are very proud of her achievements and wish her every success in the next stage of her career.”

In 2016, Legal Cheek brought you news of Anna Midgley, a junior barrister who was appointed as a Crown Court judge aged just 33. Briony Clarke, a criminal solicitor who now sits as a deputy district judge, is believed to be the country’s youngest female judge. She was 31 when she was sworn in.

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Tang Sou Do.

It’s ‘the Way of the Tang Hand’, apparently. Presumably you’ll know when you’ve been Tangoed by Judge Loke.



Oh, so it’s buried away in the credits to the picture?

I love it how he censors my comment which pointed out his shoddy reporting.



Go away, you rat



“her appointment is unusual not just because of her martial arts passion”

Is having other interests that hard to believe?


Corbyn. Symphathiser

That’s incredibly cool!



Don’t drool all over yourself too much.


Corbyn. Symphathiser

My apologies, I don’t know the optimal amount one should drool over oneself in any given situation. I defer to your superior expertise and experience in being slack-jawed.


Naughty Mick

I’d love to roast her toast


Sarah Robson - Black Belt Barrister ;)

I didn’t think they had black belts in Tang Sou Dao?



I am concerned about this judicial diversity mantra, yes these people may be from a different ethnic background and externally look different but a lot just think and behave like the white middle classes they work with and were trained by.



I think for real diversity we need to look beyond class and colour of skin.

On the surface I am white and middle class. In reality, I think like a man whose moral values encompass some of those possessed by a Tibetan monk, others from a homeless child in Bolivia, others from a president of a Scandinavian country, and others from a hippy in Bali. My skin has no colour and my mind has no limits.



Will you apply for the bench?



There’s a great line in Blackadder III where blackadder and the prince regent are discussing bribing a member of the gentry with a High Court Judgeship. “Is he qualified”, asks the Prince Regent. “He’s a violent, mindless, bigoted old fool”, replies Blackadder. “Sounds a bit over qualified”, responds the Prince Regent. Unfortunately, even today, there are still “overqualified” judges out there.



I have always thought that being in chambers and the inns of court for 30 years is not necessarily the best background for equipping people to administer and dispense justice.



That is part of the reason we had jury trials to act as a check and balance on judges.



We still have them.


Cool, she can throw some kicks. How is her proficiency in immigration law?

It’s nice when lawyers are interesting, but it’s a necessity for them to be competent. For those who will be before her in inevitably stressful situations, I hope she does well in this post.


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