Did you know that Britain’s first black magistrate was a Jamaican?

Eric Irons

The United Kingdom has honoured the late Eric Irons, who was Britain’s first black magistrate, as part of Black History Month celebrations there.

A plaque has been unveiled at the National Justice Museum to commemorate Irons’ life. He passed away in 2007 at age 86.

Here are some facts about this true trailblazer:

  • Irons was born in Jamaica in 1921.
  • He settled in Nottingham, England after serving in the Royal Air Force during World War II.
  • Irons was a campaigner for social justice.
  • He became the UK’s first black justice of the peace in 1962 and was given an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).
  • While working at the Chilwell Ordnance Depot army base in the 1950s, he campaigned for better employment opportunities, health and education for black workers.
  • He was instrumental in lifting a ban on black people working for a transport company and helped the city council address issues following the 1958 race riots in the St Ann’s area of Nottingham.
  • After making history as the first black magistrate in 1962 he was later made an OBE in 1977 and continued to oversee court cases until he retired in 1991.
  • Irons met his wife in Nottingham after World War II and they went on to have six children and 16 grandchildren.

Irons’ sons Adrian and Paul said he had devoted his whole life to “serving people of all colours, religion, age and the whole community”.

“In so doing, not only was he a remarkable role model to his family, but his selfless and courageous work helped to ensure we have a more equitable understanding and tolerant society that benefits us all,” they said.