Court Dress

Shelley White sets out the revised guidance on court attire.


Of the many issues of import which have faced the Bar over the last 18 months the question of court dress has perhaps received disproportionate attention.

In July 2007, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, then Lord Chief Justice, announced that civil judges would swap traditional court dress for a continental style gown. He then sought the views of the Bar regarding court attire.

The extensive consultation by the Bar Council, which included inviting the views of every barrister in the country, illustrated the great variety and strength of feeling on the topic. The overwhelming majority responded in favour of retaining traditional court dress and it is following the Bar’s wish to retain the status quo that the Revised Guidance on Court Dress was issued by Desmond Browne QC, the Chairman of the Bar on 2 June 2009 (for further information visit:

www.barcouncil.org.uk/assets/documents/Court%20Dress20020609.pdf).

Need for certainty

Despite efforts to keep revision to a minimum there will inevitably be some changes. In some cases there was no established practice prior to the guidance being issued; whether hearings were robed or not simply depended on the views of the particular judge. In light of that, it was an overwhelming theme of barristers’ responses that they wanted clarity as to what to wear. The Revised Guidance is therefore intended to provide real benefit of certainty.

Any new guidance takes time to settle in, however should there be any continuing concerns, please send them to janbye@barcouncil.org.uk and they will be passed to the relevant Committee for consideration.

Please note: there may be minor adjustments to the Revised Guidance and they will be posted on the Bar Council website:  www.barcouncil.org.uk

Shelley White is a barrister at New Square Chambers and a member of the Bar Council’s Legal Services Committee and Young Bar Committee.

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