Okay, I admit it. In a perfect world lawyers would not wear wigs in the 21st Century. There was a time when I imagined we would wear silver foil suits and ride hover boards to court but I guess I will just have to settle for iPads and that mythical beast “Court Wifi”.
Actually I should rephrase that. In a perfect world there would be no need for lawyers and courtrooms. Everyone would live a blissful, law abiding life in perfect harmony. But the history of humanity has never known such Utopia and never will. There is a reason why the Ten Commandments mainly ban things – some humans have a tendency to do bad stuff. Always have, always will.
So I suppose I should, instead, acknowledge that if we were to start with a blank sheet of paper and design a criminal justice system for the 21st Century wigs would not feature. Unless you were writing a steampunk version of the Criminal Justice System…..but I digress.
Why would wigs not feature? Mainly because, starting from scratch, nobody would even begin to suggest wigs. They are a feature of the CJS by accident and tradition. Even I, apparently ardent cheerleader for my wig, would not invent wig wearing.
So the call goes that we should scrap them. They are anachronistic. They are alienating. They are an impediment to justice. They reek of class division. They cause disease. (I may have made that last one up, but the rest are a rough summary of the various arguments against the wig).
And I admit defeat. The anti-wig brigade win. I will lay down my wig…..but only if we are doing everything for the same reason, with the same intent. Come on people, don’t just focus on the wig.
Out should go the Royal Coat of Arms in every courtroom. I am sure a surfeit of rampant lions may dampen the market but the coffers of the MoJ could be swelled by an appearance on Cash in the Attic when we clear out the high backed leather chairs and the other adornments in the Court buildings.
Judges will have to go to. I do not mean the actual Judges. But their titles, they are just so feudal. No more addressing “Your Honour” or “M’Lud”. Just plain old “you”. And no more “Her Honour Judge X” or “Mr Justice Y”. I suppose we will still have to call them Judge, as a title, but it will be Judge X (Crime). Or Judge Y (Higher Crime). Of course we will have stopped calling it the Crown Court. It it will just be the Manchester Criminal Court (Juries).
And everything will have to be on the same level. Preferably a bit more “open plan”, but definitely all on the same level. Less “imposing” that way. No more difference between Bench and Bar. Just everyone in a bit of a semicircle. Whilst we are at it, and I appreciate that this is no impediment to justice, can I make a personal plea for more comfortable seating?
So we can all sit in a courtroom designed by IKEA and have a chat. More tearoom than courtroom I guess. Having taken some of the natural gravitas away I suggest we are going to need a bit more security. So each room is going to need a properly trained, physically fit and well equipped security officer. Plain clothed, naturally.
I do have a bit of a “red line” though. This is a definite regulatory matter. If we have ditched the wigs and the gowns we need a dress code. Bare minimum requirements are a total ban on cartoon character ties (unless we are going all Match of the Day and going open necked, I mean ties are a bit of a throwback aren’t they?), strict rules on hair colour (perhaps the Judge can have a colour chart, cherry red is acceptable but purple is not?) and a set of strict regulations on visible piercings, tattoos and Mohicans (by which I mean the hairstyle, and not Daniel Day Lewis).
The more I think about, the more we are going to have to be a bit more presciptive about it. What happens if one lawyer (we have scrapped the terms solicitor, barrister, counsel and advocate) has bagged themselves a bargain suit from Jaeger on Black Friday? That might come across as a bit “fatcat” unless they leave the price label on it. No, no. That won’t do at all. So it will have to be something a bit more bland yet approachable. Blue button down and chinos? Advocacy (sorry, my language slipped there and got a bit anachronistic)…. lawyerly arguing …. brought to you by Gap.
Of course all these changes will do little to alleviate the crippling delays that beset the Justice system. They will make great strides in increasing access to justice in those cases were the under resourced police have managed to catch the offender. And they will make the ordeal of giving evidence more palatable, if the Judge (Crime) has not kicked the case because the CPS have not served the evidence. And of course the public will have a greater respect for the participants in a criminal trial as their shirt and chino combo will overcome years of politicians telling them lawyers are blood sucking leeches.
Actually, I have changed my mind. Until such time as we get to grips with the real problems that beset the CJS, I may just hang on to my horsehair head warmer.