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Last Updated: Saturday, 9 June 2007, 06:44 GMT 07:44 UK
Opinion divided on judges' wigs
Judges generic
Judges have worn the outfit for hundreds of years
Most judges and lawyers want to carry on wearing wigs and gowns in courts, which goes against the wishes of the majority of the public, a report says.

The paper, on the Ministry of Justice website, says 70% of court workers in England and Wales want to keep them, compared with 42% of the public.

The report - compiled in January 2004 - has only now been released following a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Lord Chief Justice is considering possible compromises over the issue.

Lord Phillips will make an announcement in the next few months.

The report considered the findings of a survey of more than 1,500 members of the public and 500 court users carried out in 2002.

It compared that survey with the results of a government consultation in 2003, which included more than 1,000 judges and lawyers.

'Stamp of authority'

The consultation had asked: "Is court working dress, as worn in the courts of England and Wales, suitable for the task?"

More than 70% of those questioned replied that judges and barristers in criminal cases were suitably dressed.

A smaller majority (56%) of respondents opted for judges hearing civil or family proceedings to wear a wig and gown.

Comments gathered during the survey included the wish for judges' outfits to carry a "stamp of authority", and for the court to be "solemn, formal, dignified and intimidating for some".

In the public opinion survey, 42% of respondents said they were satisfied with judges' attire, and 34% thought the same of barristers.

Among those who took part in the survey, one voiced the desire for judges and barristers to dress formally, but to wear less intimidating and less antiquated clothes.

The report stated: "It may appear logical to conclude that views are polarised between members of the public and professionals working in courts.

"If this is the case, then the question to be addressed is whose set of opinions counts for more."


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