White judges and wigs

I’m not sure about today’s Guardian scoop about the lack of diversity in our High Court judges. This blogger notes that the newly anointed judges, as well as being hideously white, male, and privately educated, are also fairly old. The average age of the ten men pictured is 57. Since a long and distinguished legal career is a prerequisite for such posts, it is to be expected that those rising to the bench’s lofty heights now, are those who were educated a generation ago, where the elite public-school-to-Oxbridge route still had a lock on the system. I don’t see how the Judicial Appointments Commission, which was only established in 2006, could succeed in fostering a more diverse bench in just two years, without a rather heafty dose of affirmative action.
In the Guardian‘s photos, the judges are all also bewigged. Wigs and gowns, we are told, are an important badge of office. They serve to focus the mind of lawyers, plaintiffs and defendants on the office and not the person, the process not the personality. So, if diversity in the judiciary is a problem, I have a recommendation. Instead of modernising judges’ attire so they look more like civilians, why not expand the wigs to cover the front of the honourable judge’s face as well? Two peep-holes could be cut through the horse-hair so m’lud could see the trial, but everyone else present would see nothing but a big white perm. Then we wouldn’t know whether the judge was black, white, or brown. And furthermore, the muffled tones that came from beneath the full-face wig during a ruling would probably stop us from sexing the creature too.

6 Replies to “White judges and wigs”

  1. I should blooming well hope they are privately educated, judging by the mess of the rest of the education system in this country!
    And in this age of dumbing-down and mickey-mouse and degrees-for-all, I should jolly well hope they are from Oxbridge, that last dying bastion of a proper education.
    Long may this state of affairs continue, be they black, white, or purple!

  2. I thought the whigs and gowns were for the benefit of the accused, to de-personalise the process and make the judge symbolic of the “state” rather than an individual. More pertinent in the days when judges handed down death penalties I’d imagine. I read a bit of research about 10 years ago when the idea of court officials being in civvies was first mooted, and the group most in favour of the retention of formal dress were convicetd criminals.
    Agree with Clarice that judges should represent the establishment rather than “the people”. From a liberal perspective, it’s likely that having a more representative judiciary would result in harsher sentencing – as judges are currently, to a large extent, removed from the daily reality of life.
    Like the new look BTW.

  3. I haven’t really thought about who judges should represent, but I do think at the very least they should be of demonstrable intelligence and quality education. Otherwise you may as well do away with the whole thing, and just let the Daily Mail decide.

  4. I’m guessing the thought behind this drive for diversity is that judges, like other senior ‘establishment’ figures, are seen as role models, and therefore an increase in women and ethnic minority representation would be a good thing. Furthermore, those from a different background may have a greater understanding of both the social causes of crime, and its impacts, which would have a positive effect on sentencing.
    But as Matt says, there is something in homogenity when it comes to the way judges are percieved by those in the dock.
    That’s why my wig masks are such a great idea, because we get the best of both worlds. I’m surprised it hasn’t caught on yet.

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