Categorized | Civil Law

Bare-headed Judges

Bare-headed Judges

A new bare-headed look will prevail from October 1 when judges hearing civil and family cases in England and Wales consign their 300-year-old horsehair headgear to history. From the autumn, most judges will adopt a simple continental-style black gown. The new robe has coloured bands to indicate seniority, with heads of the high court’s four divisions and appeal court judges wearing gold bands and high court judges wearing red. Judges will no longer wear wing collars and bands for civil and family proceedings.

According to Clare Dyer, legal editor of the “Guardian”, the move has been pushed through by the lord chief justice, Lord Phillips, “who has long believed that judges’ fusty headgear and antiquated garments should be consigned to the dressing-up box. He and his recent predecessors have argued that the outdated apparel contributes to public attitudes that the judges are out of touch with ordinary life. But he failed to convince judges hearing criminal cases, who claim that wigs add to the dignity of proceedings and confer an anonymity which stops villains recognising them out of court.” Wigs will continue to be worn by high court judges and circuit judges presiding over criminal cases. Circuit judges will lose their wigs for civil cases but will retain their current gown and tippet rather than moving to the new robe.

When he decided to simplify judges’ garb, the lord chief justice expected barristers to follow suit. But the profession has been fighting to retain its traditional wig and gown. The Bar Council has twice consulted with its grassroots and has still not announced whether it intends to come into line with the judges. The consultation has revealed that well over half want to keep their traditional dress for cases in the House of Lords, court of appeal and high court.

Judges in the House of Lords may adopt a simple black gown when it becomes the supreme court in October 2009.

This post was written by:

- who has written 462 posts on Upper Case – The Anya Legal Journal.

Mike Gribbin is a retired Civil Servant with wide experience, including the drafting and implementation of Parliamentary legislation and regulations. He is the editor of “Criminal Offences Handbook”, a uniquely comprehensive guide to more than one thousand ways to fall foul of UK criminal law. He is Editor of the Upper Case Legal Journal and has been writing blog posts for the past eight years.

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