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No room for pomposity

WHEN it comes to court dress, Thomas Jefferson, one of the founding fathers of the United States, had the right idea, though we would not necessarily agree with his choice of words.

"For Heaven's sake," he said, "discard the monstrous wig which makes the English judges look like rats peeping through bunches of oakum."

Now senior Scottish judges - who resemble rats in no way, shape or form - are to take his advice to heart, at least in civil cases at the Court of Session, by dispensing with wigs and robes. The 11 who sit in the Inner House will take this radical leap into the 21st century next week.

In making the announcement, Lord Gill, the Lord President, said that by sitting in civil appeals without robes or wigs the judges of the Inner House will be in line with the practice of the United Kingdom Supreme Court, adding: "It makes sense in this day and age."

In that he is correct. Wigs connote authority, but they do not define it. Horsehair and silk may have served a purpose in the 17th century, but now the time is surely ripe for change. Pomp can be uncomfortably close to pomposity, and there is no case for either in a modern judicial system.

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