<p>‘No, the sky will not fall in if we abandon the wig,’ barrister says</p>

‘No, the sky will not fall in if we abandon the wig,’ barrister says

‘Fashioned for caucasian hair’: Barrister calls for UK courts to ban wigs

Wigs must be worn during trials before the Crown Court

Saman Javed
Friday 11 February 2022 13:31
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A leading black barrister has called for UK courts to end the requirement for wigs to be worn in court.

Leslie Thomas QC, who currently practices from Garden Court Chambers, told The Times that the wigs are “fashioned for caucasian hair” and look “ridiculous” on black barristers.

Clarifying his comments on Twitter, Thomas said that he believes the wigs look ridiculous “on everyone”.

“We don’t need them. Judges in the higher courts no longer wear them and justice hasn’t suffered as a result. No, the sky will not fall in if we abandon the wig,” he said.

According to the Judicial Office, wigs first made their appearance in court during the reign of Charles II between 1660-1685 and were considered “essential wear for polite society”.

Legal professionals still wear these wigs today in some court settings. Under court rules, they must be worn during trials in the Crown Court.

Responding to a Twitter user who said the wig “communicates that the barrister is a representative of the [legal] profession and not bringing their own person or views to their role”, Thomas said: “Why can’t that be communicated with a black gown, collars and the bands like they have in many commonwealth jurisdictions and other legal systems in the world?”

“What does the wig add to make the impact you refer to? Are our judges less impactful with the wig? Help me understand.”

Thomas’ comments come after another black barrister at Garden Court Chambers, Michael Etienne, said he had asked the Bar Council what the repercussions would be if he declined to wear a wig over his afro.

“The answer included: ‘contempt of court’, ‘wasted costs’ and various potential breaches of Code of Conduct. Unless the insistence was discriminatory,” Etienne wrote on Twitter.

In October 2021, parliamentarians, campaigners and beauty companies wrote a letter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission asking it to ban discrimination against black hairstyles in the UK.

Signatories of the letter included Wera Hobhouse MP, Lord Simon Woolley, The National Hair and Beauty Federation, The British Beauty Council, Glamour magazine, The Equality Act Review and Unilever.

“For far too long, institutional policies have been allowed to push Black children, adults and those of Black heritage to conform and mirror Eurocentric hairstyles, often damaging their natural hair in the process,” the letter said.

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