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May 13, 2008
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Beam me up, M'Lud: British judges get 'Star Trek' outfits

May 13, 2008

The new Judicial Civil Robe for women
Photo : Ho/AFP
LONDON, May 13, 2008 (AFP) - Britain's top judges are to get a new outfit, doing away with their traditional wigs and introducing colour-coded robes which one critic likened to costumes from the hit space show Star Trek.

The new robes, to be worn by Appeal Court and High Court judges hearing civil cases from October, incorporate coloured bands to identify seniority, with the most senior judges sporting gold bands and High Court judges in red.

The Guardian daily's deputy fashion editor Hadley Freeman said the new outfit makes the wearer look like an "evil pastor" or a "cut-price Cruella de Vil", the villain in the Disney cartoon "One Hundred and One Dalmatians".

Helpfully it juxtaposed a picture of the head of the judiciary in England and Wales, judge Nicholas Phillips, with a snap of the actor Patrick Stewart dressed up in full stellar gear as Captain Picard in Star Trek.

"Look at this poor man: instead of appearing imperious, the lord chief justice, Lord Phillips, now just looks like the man who sells you tickets for the Star Trek Experience at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas," she added.

The new robes -- to be worn in civil and family court proceedings without the traditional 18th century-style horsehair wigs hitherto worn by judges -- were designed by Betty Jackson, a former Designer of the Year.

She worked for free in consultation with a panel of judges who gave their opinions on changes to the centuries-old judicial dress.

The Judicial Communications Office said the new gown would cut costs by reducing the number of robes certain judges had to wear.

"It is much easier to wear and has things like pockets which the old ones did not have," said a spokesman. "It is the result of considerable consultation and a sensible way forward."

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