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  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 8:14am
NewsHong Kong

Right of abode? What about the right to wear wigs, ask lawyers

Law Society keen to preserve time-honoured tradition

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 January, 2013, 9:21am

Litigation over the right of abode may be a prime concern in legal circles, but Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li has another headache to work on: should solicitors be allowed to wear wigs in court like barristers?

The Law Society, with more than 8,000 solicitors as members, deems the wearing of wigs essential in helping to ensure justice is done.

But the Bar Association, which represents more than 1,100 barristers, thinks otherwise.

The disagreement stems from a new arrangement that will see solicitors representing and speaking on behalf of their clients in hearings in the High Court and Court of Final Appeal as early as April - alongside their barrister counterparts.

Other than judges, only barristers have the right to wear the 17th-century horsehair attire.

Stephen Hung Wan-shun, chairman of the Law Society's criminal law and procedure panel, said he was worried a difference in attire between barristers and solicitors could influence the perception of jurors serving in criminal trials.

"Our biggest concern is criminal hearings involving a jury," Hung said. "We would like to avoid any chances [of prejudice or unfairness]."

The Bar Association begs to differ. "It will confuse the public about the difference between the two specialities," chairman Kumar Ramanathan SC said. "If they want to wear wigs, why don't they call to the bar?"

Ramanathan disagreed that jurors might find solicitors less authoritative and convincing because they did not wear wigs. "It's just a sense of insecurity, and not the reality," he said.

The fashion originated in France in the 13th century after Henry III took to wearing one to hide his premature baldness.

While Hong Kong solicitors now want to don wigs, Britain started a debate a decade ago on whether to scrap the headgear among barristers.

Criminologist Stanislaus Lai Ding-kee, of City University, said the historical symbol of power should not be extended to solicitors, though he agreed some jurors might find it confusing if some legal advocates wore wigs while others did not.

"But the quality of jurors is not so low that they would associate higher authority with someone just because of a wig," he said.



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This article is now closed to comments

(1) Thanks, johnrai7, for the reference to Wiki which I browsed thru and picked up the following main points about Mao jacket:
“Sun Yat-sen introduced the style shortly after the founding of the Republic of China as a form of national dress …
“a symbol of proletarian unity and an Eastern counterpart to the Western business suit …
“from 1965-76 when Mao himself died, the suit became widely worn by the entire male population …
“the Mao suit has been abandoned by some of the younger generation in urban areas, but is still worn by older generations during formal parties. It is also prevalent among Chinese peasants as casual dress.”
(2) I think our jurists look great, dignified and reliable in Mao jackets, compared with the robes, their current attire, that make them all look - honestly and without the slightest attempt to insult - like eunuchs.
(3) The wigs: Let’s be honest about how incredibly ridiculous oriental faces look in those beastly yellowish scalps.
GM and AC
Please end the farce,
and make our judiciary truly independent and respectable in look
as well as in substance
Nevermind... forget abut HK jurists wearing the Mao Suit, it died along time ago...in China, I was looking at the recent pictures from the recent CPPCC meeting, I didn't see a single "mao suit" but very beautiful black western suits with expensive looking colorful ties :) ,.... wig or no wig ,its all about respecting the tradition.
(1) If you look up to CPPCC meetings for emulation / inspiration, why not "beautiful black western suits and colorful ties" as attire for HK jourists?
(2) "Mao suit" predates CCP.
(3) Respecting tradition of wig? You must be kidding. What tradition and why is it respectable? Worship what you want in guildhall, but not to force society to accept eyesores in a public court rooms.
(4) You’re murdering Americans with your jokes about common law traditions.
(5) Open your eyes / mind and see what died and what's alive.
(6) Lawyers must learn to outgrow witchcraft and practice real laws without silly pretensions.
Personally, I think they should go the whole hog. Wigs, stockings, suspenders, frilly knickers. Oh, hold on, they probably already have beneath the Savile Row threads. I say justice has to be seen to be done.
Shall we then scrap the policeman hat and the military beret? Are they not also authoritative?
Solicitors can don jester hats if they really feeling like being included.
It's a uniform folks.
"The Law Society, with more than 8,000 solicitors as members, deems the wearing of wigs essential in helping to ensure justice is done." Excuse me! I just don't see how the wearing of wigs will ensure justice is done! What a hypocrisy! It's only a tradition after Henry III took to wearing one to hide his premature baldness. In U.S. the lawyers (barristers or solicitors) don't wear a wig at all, and justice is still done!
What does the picture show,
a masquerade?
These serious looking professionals are honest people
By their attire, they reveal what they really are
pretenders, stooges, clowns and jesters.
Those who take them serious
are worse fools, overwhelmed by what is clearly a barefaced
black and practical and insulting joke.
A colonial version of Fable of Bees
Private Vices and Social Scourge.
Let’s be honest and open-minded;
the picture shows HK’s pride or shame?
Are you going to teach your children
to look forward to those ridiculous things
as symbols of JUSTICE?
Come up with some other official-looking headgear or robe.
Black wig, for local relevance
White wig, to pretend wisdom of age
Mao jacket, for symbol of equality
I think ure mistaken about mao jacket. its a instead symbol of superiority...
read more... ****en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mao_suit


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