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Scots judges to ditch their wigs and robes in historic move

JUDGES at Scotland's highest court are to end a 250-year-old tradition by ditching their wigs and robes when hearing civil appeal cases.

CHANGE: It brings the judges in line with the Supreme Court's practice.
CHANGE: It brings the judges in line with the Supreme Court's practice.

Law chiefs at the Court of Session in Edinburgh have decided to dispense with the formal clothing in some cases in an effort to modernise their image.

It follows a similar move in England after research showed the public was in favour of judges "dressing down" to help dispel their stuffy reputation.

The new dress code will apply to civil and family appeal cases heard in the court's Inner House.

Lawyers appearing in the cases will also have the option not to wear wigs and gowns.

However, judges and lawyers working on cases in criminal courts will keep their traditional wigs and gowns.

The move, which will come into effect next week, follows a proposal by the Lord President, Lord Gill, which was backed by judges. Lord Gill, the head of the ­judiciary in Scotland, said the move "makes sense in this day and age".

He said: "From April 22 judges sitting in the Inner House will, ordinarily, no longer wear wigs and judicial robes. Where this is the case the court will not insist that counsel should appear with wig and gown or that solicitors with rights of audience should appear with gowns.

"In deciding to sit in civil appeals without robes or wigs the judges of the Inner House are in line with the practice of the United Kingdom Supreme Court."

The Court of Session is ­Scotland's highest civil court and is divided into the Inner House and the Outer House, which hears cases which have not previously been to court.

Eleven judges sit in the Inner House, which is the appellate section of the Court of Session. The Inner House acts as a court of appeal for cases from the Outer House and for appeals in civil cases from the sheriff courts, the Court of the Lord Lyon, Scottish Land Court, the Lands Tribunal for Scotland and other tribunals.

The former Lord Advocate Colin Boyd previously called for judges and wigs and gowns to be ditched in civil courts.

He said: "I think the criminal courts are slightly different. But really, is that the way we want to be dressed? I think not."

In 2002, the Faculty of ­Advocates decided to keep wigs as part of their formal dress code after a QC appeared in a civil court without one.

Colin McEachran, QC, had taken to appearing at the Court of Session in Edinburgh bareheaded. He described the wearing of wigs as old-fashioned and said it was time for the profession to change.

The move caused a split among his colleagues between those who want to uphold the tradition and others who believed it is time for a change.

However, in a consultation by the Faculty of Advocates, 80% of members said they wanted to keep the formal attire, claiming that the wigs were a symbol of professional identity.

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