High Court chief believes judges will end wig-wearing


THE PRESIDENT of the High Court has said he expects most judges will discontinue wearing wigs following new rule changes for the higher courts intended to discontinue a practice associated with the restoration of the British monarchy in the 17th century.

Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, who removed his wig at the outset of his court hearing yesterday, stressed that while he expected a majority to discontinue wearing wigs, this was an optional matter for judges of the superior courts.

Mr Justice Kearns said he had removed his own wig “as a mark of recognition of the new regime ushered in by the rule changes”.

He noted judges hearing family law cases had not worn wigs for some years and also drew attention to the fact that some English judges had expressed concern about the security implications of not wearing wigs in the criminal courts there.

Meanwhile, in the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice, Mrs Justice Susan Denham, presided without her wig over a three-judge court, while her two colleagues, Mr Justice Joseph Finnegan and Mr Justice Donal O’Donnell, had also discarded their wigs.

The majority of High Court judges also appeared in their courts yesterday without their wigs but a small number continued to wear them. A number of judges, particularly the more recent appointees to the bench, have not worn wigs for some time. Some have never worn them.

Since the wearing of wigs for barristers was rendered optional some years ago, a majority have ceased the practice, although a considerable minority – including many new entrants to the bar – continue it.

The fact that many judges have now abandoned wig-wearing is likely to persuade many more barristers to follow their example, legal sources have suggested.

Until now, judges appointed to the bench wore a horsehair wig, made in London at a cost of €2,200. In the just published Legal Services Regulation Bill, Mr Shatter also proposes to end the requirement for barristers to wear gowns in court.

The former chief justice, Mr Justice John Murray, had commissioned the design of new robes for the judiciary, but these have not been proceeded with.