Scottish courts still spending thousands on wigs & uniforms

Certain court officials must wear robes and wigs, though judges in civil cases do not always do so. Picture: Lesley Donald
Certain court officials must wear robes and wigs, though judges in civil cases do not always do so. Picture: Lesley Donald
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More than £11,000 has been spent on wigs, wig boxes and gowns worn by Scottish legal staff in the past three years.

A further £240,000 was paid out to cover the cost of uniform essentials for court officials, according to figures released by the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service (SCTS).

Scottish courts spent £6,317 last year on bar gowns, bar wigs and wig tins for legal advisers and other court staff appearing at the Court of Session and Glasgow’s High Court – more than double the £2,441.68 spent the year before.

Although the SCTS did not give an individual breakdown of costs, top London tailors such as Stanley Ley and Ede & Ravenscroft charge at least £500 for horsehair bar wigs and more than £100 for an individual wig case.

Some of Scotland’s most senior legal staff have been outspoken in the past about the need to ditch the traditional garments. Since last year, judges sitting in the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh no longer wear robes and wigs when hearing civil appeals, though they still wear them when hearing criminal appeals.

SCTS figures also show £121,077.95 was spent by the organisation in 2015 to cover the costs of staff uniforms. The Supreme Courts spent the most, at £30,752.

Paul McLaughlin, project manager for Miscarriages of Justice Organisation, said the costs were “disgraceful”. He added: “It’s bizarre beyond belief, but not surprising. It’s flabbergasting that some people can’t afford to pay to be defended but they [the courts] would spend money on appearance. It’s not acceptable that money is being spent on something so archaic.”

In response to a Freedom of Information request made by The Scotsman, the SCTS said: “The Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service only purchases replacement wigs and gowns for members of the judiciary. Certain staff and SCTS legal advisers are specifically required by court convention to wear gowns and wigs in court.”

“It is also an SCTS requirement that certain key frontline staff are uniformed. As a matter of SCTS policy, those staff are provided with uniforms and replacement items. SCTS does not provide gowns or wigs for lawyers.

“In April 2015 the Scottish Courts and Tribunals Service took over the responsibilities of the Scottish Courts Service and Scottish Tribunals Service incurring necessary transitional costs such as uniforms. Staff turnover and recruitment also impact on uniform costs.”

But Eben Wilson, director of campaign group TaxpayerScotland, questioned the cost, saying: “While judges are rightfully given some anonymity and authority through their robes, it is perhaps it is time that the rest of the legal profession cut back radically on their traditions and gave taxpayers who pay their very high fees a break.”