- Course studied:
- Commercial Law
- Year of graduation:
Barrister and Judge
Fayyaz Afzal OBE was the UK’s first Asian blind Barrister and is now a Judge overseeing some of the most serious family cases in the legal system. He was awarded an OBE for his services to the judiciary and voluntary services to disabled people just ten years after graduating from Staffordshire University with an LLB in 1998.
He returned to the University for a Postgraduate Diploma in Commercial Law, which he completed in 2000, and was made an Honorary Doctor of the University in 2010. Fayyaz also holds an extensive list of appointments on councils and committees.
“When I was younger, I never thought I would be in the position I’ve found myself in,” he said. “With my disability, my parents told me I wasn’t able to go out and do manual work or drive. I would have to learn something that will be of assistance to people. I always wanted to do something important. I wanted to do something that mattered and helped people at the same time.”
Fayyaz grew up in Rochdale, in Greater Manchester, where he studied both law and business at A level to decide which to pursue as a career. “All I knew about law was from the TV and I knew I was interested in business. I thought studying both would give me an idea on what to choose but I enjoyed them both immensely. I did better in law and the tutor suggested it was something I should practice.”
In 1994, Fayyaz travelled to Pakistan to marry and started his degree at Staffordshire University in the following year. With difficulties reading and researching due to his blindness, he overcame the challenge through the use of technology. This included a speaking laptop for reading, using a CCTV to magnify text, which he could read at that time, and relying on an assistant.
He said: “I chose Staffordshire because it was close to home, the Law School had a great reputation and because it had a strong history of students with special needs and visual impairment.”
He was called to the Bar in 1999, completed his postgraduate diploma a year later, then joined New Walk Chambers, in Leicester, starting pupillage in 2001. After nine years, Fayyaz moved to No5 Chambers, in Birmingham, in 2010, where he has continued practicing as a Barrister while holding a number of other positions.
Fayyaz has served on the Young Barristers, Equality/Diversity and Professional Practice committees within the Bar Council. He has been a member of the Lincoln’s Inn Bar Representation Committee since 2002, sits on the Advocacy Training Council and is a senior trainer for both Lincoln’s Inn and the Midland Circuit. He said “I enjoy learning, influencing and trying to make things better for myself and others through this kind of work.”
Fayyaz is also a Deputy District Judge on the Midland Circuit, dealing with civil and family cases, a Legal Assessor/Adviser to three health/professional regulators, a Legally Qualified Chair for two health regulators and two Police regions.
Fayyaz’s latest appointment is as a Recorder on the northern circuit dealing with care cases. He said: “I can now deal with care cases regarded as being the most serious cases, involving decisions as to when a child should be removed from the birth family permanently and adopted. They are more complicated and difficult cases, often involving serious injuries and abuse to the child.”
Fayyaz spends around 50% of his working year as a Barrister and 50% in his other positions, including as a Recorder. He said: “I love the variety, intellectual rigour and importance of the work with which I am involved, be that as a Barrister, specialist adviser or as a Judge. It is a privilege to be trusted with such hugely important life changing work. It is also very prestigious and highly respected. I cannot think of a better career.”
Fayyaz also has five children, ranging from six to twenty years old, and still finds the time to attend the Staffordshire University Law School award ceremony every year since receiving his honorary award. He said: “It’s so nice to be there for the celebration of everyone’s efforts. I spend a lot of time talking to the students’ parents and supporters. It’s great to confirm to them how proud of their achievements we all are.”