Masters of the Bench
Her Honour Judge Usha Karu
Full Title: Her Honour Judge Usha KaruCategory: Ordinary Bencher
Bench Call Date: 27.3.2012
Call Date: 26.7.1984
Usha Karu is the Resident Judge of Inner London Crown Court where she tries serious crime, including murder. She is Honorary Recorder of Southwark. The first woman from the Indian subcontinent to become a Circuit Judge, she also sits at the Old Bailey by secondment. In October 2018, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the LSBU School of Law.
Born in New Delhi, Usha came to England with her family in the 1970s aged 17, and read Modern Studies at North London Polytechnic. Inspired by the teaching of a fascinating lecturer, she then embarked upon a Law conversion course, with the aim of becoming a barrister in criminal law.
The early days of her career were not without difficulty. There were few women, and even fewer from ethnic minorities, in crime. The support and encouragement of her father and her husband (a criminal Silk) were invaluable. In 1988, she gained tenancy.
Usha served as a member of the Criminal Bar Association Diversity Committee, the Bar Professional Standards Committee, and the Middle Temple Hall Committee.
By 1998 she had two sons, aged eight and five (both now barristers practising in crime); she became an Assistant Recorder, and then a Recorder in 2000, and a Circuit Judge in 2005.
In 2010, she was appointed as a Judicial Member of the First-Tier Mental Health Tribunal (Restricted Patients Panel), a role which offers a wider perspective on the workings of the mental health jurisdiction and its links to the criminal jurisdiction.
She was elected a Bencher in 2012, and appointed Circuit Judge Commissioner at the Judicial Appointments Commission 2014-18. She is Autumn Reader 2019, and takes pupils for Advocacy Training and Marshalling, as well as judging Moots.
Usha was appointed Diversity and Community Relations Judge for her court in 2011, engaging with students from a broad range of backgrounds. Students visit the court to watch proceedings and take part in sentencing exercises. She engages with those who may not otherwise have exposure to the judiciary, and encourages young lawyers from all backgrounds to pursue their goals with ambition.