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Outer House judges relieved of wigs and robes for most sittings

5 November 2019

Outer House judges in the Court of Session will no longer wear wigs and judicial robes except in evidential hearings, under a new practice note issued by the Lord President, Lord Carloway.

Under the practice note (click here to view), which takes effect from 1 December 2019, judges sitting at first instance "will, ordinarily, no longer wear wigs and judicial robes, except when presiding over a hearing which involves the testimony of witnesses".

It is also not expected that counsel or solicitors with rights of audience appearing in the Outer House will wear wigs or gowns, but they are "expected to wear clothing appropriate for business at all hearings".

If a judge determines that special circumstances exist which make it appropriate to wear a wig and judicial robe, that will be intimated to practitioners in advance of the hearing.

Judges in the Inner House dispensed with wigs and robes in April 2014. At the time it was said to be “in line with the practice of the United Kingdom Supreme Court. It makes sense in this day and age”. (Click here for report.)

However John Cairns, Professor of Civil Law at the University of Edinburgh, called it "dangerous" to "cut free from the past" in this way.

Gordon Jackson QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said counsel could still wear court dress if they liked.

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