Judges and Magistrates are expected to enforce a directive on the dress code during court sessions.
Chief Justice Kwesi Anin-Yeboah has asked judges, magistrates and lawyers to appearing in the Supreme Court, High Courts, Subordinate Courts, shall be fully robbed in a Wig and Gown as part of their dress which shall be sober and dignified.
According to a circular to all judges and professional magistrates, the decision to ensure the strict enforcement of dress code during court sittings was a concern observed at a meeting of the General Legal Council that members appear in courts properly robbed.
Expressing concern over the improper dressing by court workers, Chief Justice Anin Yeboah said; ‘‘It has recently been brought to his attention that generally accepted dress standards of the Legal Profession are not being followed by certain sitting Judges, Professional Magistrates and members of the Bar who appear before the Courts’.
The Chief Justice, has thus asked judges and lawyers need not wear black coats and gowns to participate in court proceedings.
He said, ‘Judges and Professional Magistrates are reminded of the requirement to be fully robbed in a Wig and Gown, for Court sittings at all times.
‘It is important to note that dressing in this manner helps to preserve the decorum, seriousness and formality of the court proceedings and the importance of the proper administration of justice.
For this reason, Judges and Professional Magistrates should also ensure that members of the Bar who appear before the Courts strictly comply with the dress standards to maintain the dignity of the Court, as this matter was raised by the Bar Association at a meeting of the General Legal Council (GLC)’. The circular read.
A similar instruction was issued in 2017, by then Chief Justice, Sophia Akuffo directing judges wear wigs during court sittings. A directive many saw as the unwillingness of African courts to move away from the old age tradition.
Chief Justice Kwasi Anin-Yeboah is on record to stated categorically that ceremonial wigs and gowns as worn by judges will not be retired despite a groundswell of public opinion demanding for this to happen.
“It’s our uniform and I’m all out for it as the tradition of the bar. I will not change it” he said non-apologetically. He said in a to the Appointments Committee of parliament during his vetting.
Meanwhile, United Kingdom’s Supreme Court has ruled that Lawyers appearing at the UK’s highest court will no longer have to wear the traditional wig and gown.
Supreme Court president Lord Phillips announced the move, saying it was “in line with the court’s goal” to make its work “as accessible as possible”.
If all advocates in a case agree, they may ask to “dispense with part or all of court dress”. Supreme Court justices wear no legal dress themselves already.
The UK’s Supreme Court (UKSC) was set up in 2009 to replace the Law Lords.
The relaxed dress code would also apply to advocates appearing before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC), said the statement from the Supreme Court.
Judges and lawyers appearing in criminal courts still wear traditional wigs and gowns but they can be dispensed in cases involving children.
The Supreme Court move followed a request by the UKSC/JCPC User Group, which represents professional users of the court, for an extension of the practice already adopted in family cases “under which advocates customarily appear unrobed”.
In 2008, judges in civil and family cases in England and Wales stopped wearing wigs. A simplified design of working robes in court was also introduced.
“The Justices agree that this development would further underline the Court’s commitment to providing an appropriate environment for considered discussion of legal issues, and is in line with the Court’s goal to make this process as accessible as possible,” the statement from the Supreme Court president said.
It went on: “It is anticipated that while some advocates will not wish to take advantage of this dispensation, others may prefer to reduce their legal dress to a simple gown, or to appear without legal dress at all.”