Justice Minister fails to condemn and tackle discrimination against Amritdhari (fully practising) Sikh prevented from undertaking jury service because of his faith
London – 31 October 2023
There has been extensive local, national and international media coverage in the last 48-hours of the discrimination experienced by an Amritdhari (fully practising) Sikh who was asked to serve on a jury at Birmingham Crown Court.
However, Alex Chalk, the Justice Minister has remained tight lipped about the discrimination and offensive treatment of Jatinder Singh.
The Minister has been urged in correspondence by the Sikh Federation (UK) and social media posts to publicly condemn the religious and racial discrimination experienced by Jatinder Singh, the Vice Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK).
Jatinder Singh is a very prominent Sikh who has also served as the President at Guru Nanak Gurdwara, Smethwick, one of the largest Gurdwaras in the UK and is a former Secretary General of the Sikh Council UK.
The Justice Minister has not only failed to publicly condemn the unacceptable religious and racial discrimination against Jatinder Singh but he has also not responded to a request for an urgent meeting.
It has been reported Jatinder Singh was initially allowed by security staff to enter Birmingham Crown Court to begin jury service that normally lasts for 10 days. The security staff checked the size of Jatinder Singh’s Kirpan and as it was within the restrictions imposed by HM Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS).
Jatinder Singh has previously served as a juror wearing his Kirpan when he had no difficulties. However, when he returned to Birmingham Crown Court after lunch a security officer prevented him from entering stating his Kirpan that was acceptable in the morning was too large and must be removed. Jatinder Singh was shocked by the unacceptable behaviour and challenged the discrimination.
The blade of the Kirpan worn by Jatinder Singh was 3.93 inches and more than one inch below the blade size limit of 5 inches imposed by HMCTS. The Sikh Federation (UK) in correspondence with the Justice Minister and Shadow Justice Minister, Shabana Mahmood who is an MP in Birmingham has pointed out the religion and ethnicity of the security guard who prevented Jatinder Singh from undertaking jury service may have been a factor that led to the discrimination. HMCTS and Birmingham Crown Court have been asked to investigate.
To make matters worse and deflect attention the Ministry of Justice has issued a statement indicating Jatinder Singh was released on the first day of 10-days of jury service as there were surplus jurors. The Sikh Federation (UK) has pointed out in a letter to the Justice Minister jurors are never released on the first day of jury service and asked the Minister to check with the Chief Clerk responsible for the operation of Birmingham Crown Court.
Chief Clerks are always juggling jurors, judges and court rooms in the ten day period to hear as many cases as possible to clear the massive backlog as defendants often change their plea to guilty on the day of the trial.
Dabinderjit Singh, the Principal Adviser of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:
“We are surprised the Justice Minister, despite the publicity has failed to condemn the racial and religious discrimination against a prominent Amritdhari Sikh. If this was an Antisemitic or Islamophobic incident politicians would have been falling over themselves to condemn the treatment.”
“We are requesting a meeting with the Minister to allow him to explain the actions he, the Ministry of Justice, HM Courts and Tribunal Service and Birmingham Crown Court are taking to deal with the discrimination experienced by Jatinder Singh and prevent a similar incident in the future.”
“Trial by jury is a cornerstone of a free and democratic society. Jurors have to be community members with diverse experiences and backgrounds. The Minister must make clear and stamp out discrimination against any juror because of their racial or religious background.”
“Ending discrimination must be taken very seriously or it will undermine public confidence in the fairness of the criminal justice system. If immediate actions are not taken to end the discrimination and people of faith and ethnic minorities decided to boycott jury service the criminal justice system in England and Wales would collapse.”
ENDS Jaspal Singh National Press Secretary Sikh Federation (UK)