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  • Jul 11, 2014
  • Updated: 10:19pm
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LAW

Top Hong Kong judge refuses to let solicitors wear wigs in higher courts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 11:23am
 

Poll

  • Yes: 45%
  • No: 55%
26 Apr 2013
  • Yes
  • No
Total number of votes recorded: 293

It's a ruling that may leave some solicitors tearing their hair out.

The city's top judge has refused their request to be allowed to wear wigs - historically a symbol of power and the preserve of judges and barristers - when they represent clients in higher courts.

Earlier this year the Law Society, which has more than 8,000 solicitors as members, asked Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li to allow them to don the horsehair apparel after they won approval to speak on behalf of clients in hearings in the High Court and Court of Final Appeal, alongside barristers.

They argued that the wearing of wigs was essential in helping to ensure justice is done, as a difference in appearance could influence the perception of jurors during criminal trials.

If wigs were to be worn by solicitors in court, given the court robes worn by solicitors, there is a potential for confusion in that, in appearance, there would be little visible difference between Solicitor Advocates and Senior Counsel

But the Bar Association, which represents more than 1,100 barristers, disagreed, saying the public would be confused about the differences between the two sides of the legal profession if they both wore wigs - a view the judiciary apparently shares.

In a written reply to the Post yesterday, the judiciary said it found no evidence that differences in court dress may give rise to solicitors being seen "in a negative light". It stressed there are "obvious differences" between barristers and solicitors, one of which is court dress.

"If wigs were to be worn by solicitors in court, given the court robes worn by solicitors, there is a potential for confusion in that, in appearance, there would be little visible difference between Solicitor Advocates and Senior Counsel," the judiciary wrote.

So far, 15 solicitors have been granted the right to represent their clients in open court in the Court of First Instance, Court of Appeal and Court of Final Appeal.

Stephen Hung Wan-shun, chairman of the Law Society's criminal law and procedure panel, expressed disappointment at the decision but said they would not pursue the issue further.

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13

This article is now closed to comments

johnyuan
Tradition sometimes is a force to hold back progress. The Chinatown in New York is a case in point. The original immigrants who longed for anything Chinese set themselves apart from the rest of the city and culture around it (for centuries within its only tiny six city blocks). Chinatown henceforth became a tourist destination place – a place of curiosity and tradition different from the mainstream. New Chinese immigrants in the eighties lived away from the fully saturated Chinatown. But the Moys and Chins whose ancestors settled in those six blocks still very much holding power there. I imagine Chinatown around the world more or less just like the Chinatown in New York City – on hold with tradition for locals and tourists to ogle alike.
johnyuan
I believe in equal opportunity for all for the qualified. Unfortunately it is unattainable. The stratification of law practitioners come out of a stratified training – the A and the B training. Hence stratified qualification to justify unequal opportunity. Let me suggest that all law practitioners should go through the same training. What they practice – in general or specialized area is up to individual including specialized in just property stamp duty etc. Here, the society may reexamine how people are best served by law practitioners in Hong Kong – more accessible physically and financially.
maecheung
Get rid of the wigs altogether! Why do we have to stick to the old British Colonial system?
pslhk
Some judges hear only noises and not statements
They need to see whether or how the utterers are wigged
to decide which side carries weight
That’s how justice is seen to be done
Don’t mistake the blindfolded girl above the Supreme Court façade as Themis
she is more likely a case of abduction, about to be sold to …
daily
To be honest, most if not all Barristers that wear those awful looking wigs look pretty stupid to start off with.......it is part of history that we can do without.........The Barristers just wants this last piece of horsesheet on their head to make them feel a bit more upper-class........No Big deal......means nothing in the real world.
fink
The sensible solution is surely to get rid of wigs for judges and barristers. And gowns. Perhaps we can get a local designer to come up with a uniform for them.
pslhk
Fools who make a fetish of horsehair scalps
may apply to ATV or TVB
to play stooges in costume dramas
-
Outlandish histronics of courtiers in republican law courts
insult justice and offend against the proprieties
-
Historians will look back
and laugh at Treasury Island's legalised farce
where legal practitioners fool themselves and everybody else
-
My sympathy for those who unwillingly don the clownish attires
required for the colonial courthouses of post-colonial HK
Giwaffe
The distinction between barristers and solicitors is antiquated and remains in only a small handful of jurisdictions. This distinction, along with the accompanying court dress, inherently leads to the idea of class separation and inequality which has no place in a modern metropolis such as Hong Kong. Furthermore, given that equality is a key pillar of justice, any semblance of inequality, whether perceived or actual, must be vigorously combated.
Therefore, it is in the public interest to expeditiously integrate barristers and solicitors into one profession, and to eliminate or simplify court dress to the point where wigs and fancy regalia are no longer required.
Carioca no Coracao
this is stupid. how many countries' lawyers wear wigs now? like hkg is still under british colonial rule after the same people insisted to pirate/smuggle narcos into china...
caractacus
The Law Society's argument is that wearing a wig is essential to ensure justice is done? Does it magically impart to the wearer a mind of legal brilliance? How stupid. It is ridiculous that solicitors should want to emulate barristers in a day and age when the wig, which is hot, sweaty, uncomfortable, unhygienic AND expensive, should be abandoned altogether.
One suspects the real motive is snobbery by solicitors who want to feel important.

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