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Judges rule in favour of wigs

AN UNLIKELY profession will no doubt be delighted by yesterday's announcement that judges and barristers are to keep their wigs and gowns.

The 17th-century garb apparently comes off rather well in strip joints.

Michael Mansfield, a leading QC, recently had his ceremonial horsehair wig stolen in Manchester and was told by police that they were much in demand in night spots.

He had been hoping that yesterday's decision by Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the Lord Chancellor, and Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, might mean he would not have to buy a new one.

But it seems his desire to make courts more 'user-friendly' is not shared by his colleagues or the public. A consultation paper found most believed the formal dress had 'a significant role to play in maintaining respect for the authority and status of the court'; 67 per cent wanted to retain the present daily court dress, and 15 per cent favoured abolishing it. Nearly half saw no need to change ceremonial dress.

A Royal Commission on Criminal Justice survey of attitudes at crown courts last year also found a majority of jurors felt more confident surrounded by wigs and gowns.

So Lord Mackay and Lord Taylor decided both should stay. But Mr Mansfield said: 'You would think with so much wrong with the criminal justice system they would have more important things to worry about. If they can't change the dress it doesn't give you confidence that they change anything else.'