Judges hang on to their wigs

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The Independent Online

Plans which would have forced judges in civil courts to ditch their wigs have been postponed.

Judges were due to abandon their traditional hairpieces and adopt a new gown designed with the help of fashion students on 2 January, but a spokesman for the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, said the changes would not go ahead because "production details" were still being worked out.

It was unclear whether the delay was also partly due to opposition by barristers.

Earlier this week Lord Phillips delayed reforms applying to barristers after it was revealed a survey had shown strong support for them keeping the famous horsehair wigs.

The development would have led to barristers continuing to wear wigs in civil and family courts when judges were already bare-headed.

A Judicial Communications Office spokesman said: "Although the design of the gown is now confirmed and will be made public early in the New Year, production details are still being worked out.

"As it will not be possible to manufacture gowns for all the judges who will need them by that date, Lord Phillips has decided to postpone the introduction of the changes in court dress until the start of the next legal year, October 1 2008."

Meanwhile, plans to allow solicitors and other advocates to wear wigs will go ahead as planned next month.

This week's survey carried out by the Bar Council found a majority of people supported retention of wigs.

The survey received more than 2,700 responses from barristers and interested parties such as members of the House of Commons and House of Lords, students, solicitors and the public.

In responses, 64% supported keeping wigs and full court dress in the House of Lords, 66% in the Court of Appeal, 61% in the High Court and 47% in county court.

Criminal court cases are unaffected by the proposals, with judges and barristers retaining traditional outfits and wigs.