Talks to abandon traditional barrister wigs underway amid ‘culturally insensitive’ claims

Talks to abandon traditional barrister wigs underway amid ‘culturally insensitive’ claims

English courts may soon drop the requirement for barristers to wear wigs amid claims of cultural insensitivity, according to reports.

The judiciary is reportedly discussing updates to court dress codes following complaints that the wig requirement discriminates against those with Afro-Caribbean hair.

Judges are said to be reviewing proposals from the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales. Any changes would likely not be implemented until the autumn, as reported by the Telegraph.

This development comes after several black barristers called for an end to the compulsory use of wigs.

Wigs have not been required in civil, family, or Supreme Court hearings since 2007, but they remain mandatory for criminal trials.

Barristers can apply for special dispensation to avoid wearing a wig, such as those who wish to wear a hijab or turban in court.

The wigs, made from horsehair, are based on 17th-century fashion.

The debate over retaining wigs has intensified over the past two years, particularly after a black barrister was threatened with disciplinary action for refusing to wear one.

A Bar Council spokesman told the Telegraph: "Following questions from barristers about wigs and hair discrimination, the Bar Council set up a working group to consider court dress in the context of all protected characteristics. The findings of the working group are currently being discussed with the judiciary as part of our regular dialogue on equality and diversity matters."

Leslie Thomas KC of Garden Court Chambers has called for the end of what he describes as a "ridiculous costume." He stated, "The wigs certainly should go. There isn't any place in a modern society for barristers to be wearing 17th-century fashion."

A judiciary spokesman commented, "Senior judges are in active discussions with the Bar Council about the findings of their working group on court dress. We welcome these discussions as part of our continuing joint work on diversity and inclusion in the legal profession."

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