Supreme Court president backs move away from traditional courtroom attire

The president of the Supreme Court Lord Phillips has said that counsel appearing before the court may by agreement ditch traditional courtroom dress.

According to a spokesperson for the court, the Supreme Court Justices, who do not wear traditional robes themselves, believe that “the development would further underline the court’s commitment to providing an appropriate environment for discussion of legal issues”.

The move is stated as being in line with the court’s goal to make the legal process as accessible as possible.

The revision in guidance was prompted by the United Kingdom Supreme Court (UKSP) group, which represents professional users of the court. As counsel customarily appear unrobed in family cases the UKSP asked whether this option can be extended to advocates in other cases.

Provided that all representative parties in a particular case agree, counsel may “dispense with any or all of the elements of dress,” following prior arrangement with a registrar.

The guidance extends to those appearing before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

In 2008 the Bar Council launched a consultation on whether wigs or gowns should be scrapped, altered of retained in civil proceedings with 65 per cent of respondents wishing to retain court dress (17 March 2008).

However, many see the wig and robe as a symbol of an unmodernised bar that is not reflective of the 21st century High Court (7 November 2011).