Wigs and gowns will stay

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 June, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 June, 1997, 12:00am

Judges will be keeping their hair on after the handover, except those sitting in the Court of Final Appeal.

The traditional wigs and gowns, regarded by some as outdated remnants of the colonial era, will still be worn by judges and barristers in the SAR, it was announced yesterday.

But Chief Justice-designate Andrew Li Kwok-nang, who made the decision, will not be wearing a wig in the newly established Court of Final Appeal.

He and his fellow appeal court judges will be bare-headed although they will sport black gowns trimmed with frilly lace at the neck.

The decision to keep the traditional costumes was welcomed by many members of the legal profession. Senior government barrister Andrew Bruce QC, dismissed suggestions the wigs and gowns were mere symbols of the colonial era.

'I don't regard it so much as colonial but as a symbol of continuity,' he said.

But vice-chairman of the Bar Association, Lawrence Lok QC, was disappointed wigs were going to stay. He said: 'I hate them. I think they look ridiculous on a Chinese person.' Judges will continue to wear the short frizzy 'bench wig' and barristers the curly bar wig when they appear in court.

But the ceremonial dress worn by judges on formal occasions such as the opening of the new legal year could be dumped.

Mr Li said they would wear normal wigs and gowns at the July 1 swearing-in ceremony.

The tradition of wearing wigs dates back to the 1600s when gentlemen shaved off their lice-ridden locks and wore powdered horse hair instead.

Wigs worn by Hong Kong's judges cost more than $9,000 new and those by barristers more than $3,800.

Gill Godfrey, marketing manager with London-based Ede and Ravenscroft, which supplies Hong Kong judges with wigs and gowns, welcomed the decision, saying: 'It preserves the dignity of the court and makes the protagonists more anonymous.'