Solicitor advocates tackle wig issue head on

SOLICITOR advocates meet the Lord Chancellor this week to put their case for wearing wigs.

The Solicitors' Association of Higher Court Advocates and the Criminal Lawyers Solicitors Association are calling for court-room equality.

But some senior members of the Bar remain opposed to any change which would erode barristers' distinctive dress.

Lord Mackay issued a practice direction last summer maintaining the status quo, but agreed to continue to review the position.

Paul Hampton, chair of the advocates' association, says the current situation causes “utter confusion”.

Hampton, a partner with Piper Smith & Basham, claims to have been mistaken for a court usher.

“Another higher court advocate was asked by an usher at the Old Bailey if he had a hair disorder which prevented him from wearing a wig. It's absurd,” he says.

“The effect of restricting wigs to the Bar is to give barristers a competitive advantage.”

Judith Naylor, chair of the CLSA, will also be calling for uniformity of court dress. The association believes that nothing should be allowed to distort the view of jurors.

The Bar Council does not have a formal view on wigs. A spokesman says some are in favour and some against.

A spokesman for the Lord Chancellor's Department says Lord Mackay is still considering people's views and the meeting with Hampton and Naylor is part of the consultation process.

* The CLSA is calling for clarification from the Lord Chancellor on the issue of legal aid reform. Members are alarmed at the prospect of block-funding for criminal work. The chair of the association has written to the LCD requesting a speaker for the group's spring conference.

“We are not frightened to face the future but we cannot go on planning by double-guessing the ever-changing intentions of the Lord Chancellor,” says Naylor, of Orsborn Naylor.