The public want us to keep them, so we probably will. I can’t say I get terribly excited about this and I voted to get rid of them in civil cases, largely because I find the whole outfit so uncomfortable. I suspect that if they went, within a couple of months, no one would remember what it was like to have them. But like Beafteaters uniforms and the changing of the guard the public approves of traditional British customs – of which we are now one. Which is fine – if expensive. It will be interesting to see what the Judges do now. Having announced that they are changing outfits it might be difficult not to go the whole hog, but as the House of Lords already wear suits whilst barristers appear robed it should not present an insupperable problem.
However, solicitor advocates should now be permitted (and perhaps obliged) to wear wigs. The distinction is simply unjustifiable and sends a message about presumed competence from which the Bar should disassociate itself. If a solicitor advocate isn’t up to the job then we can demonstrate it by our superior performance. Or not. Otherwise we should go the whole hog and large Court Centres should have a ‘worst advocate of the week’ competition and make the winner wear a large hat with ‘D’ on it…
While I am at it, the same goes for a refusal to call solicitors ‘my learned friend’, substituting ‘my friend’ instead. These are courtesies, denoting nothing. But if they are going to be used then the discrimination says more about the barrister insisting on it than the solicitor to whom it is applied. If one wants to be that pernickity then one shouldn’t call the solicitor ‘my friend’ unless they are, and one shouldn’t call the barrister ‘my learned friend’ unless you believe it. Given how the Bar can square up in a tense moment, most of us would be choppwould like ing and changing the designations of our opponents throughout a trial of any length.
I would like to welcome the Lord Chief Justice as a reader of this blog. I can’t be certain of it but he has just announced:
“The Lord Chief Justice will hand down a practice direction before the Christmas vacation to permit solicitors and other advocates, as formally defined in s27 (9) of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990, to wear wigs in circumstances where they are worn by members of the Bar.
The practice direction will come into effect on 2 January 2008.”
Anyway, it’s a possibility. So watch the Ps and Qs or go anonymous. I am assuming that Mr Pineapples is anonymous, but I shall check the Bar List just in case 🙂