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Recent practice direction

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For your continued enlightenment on the court, we would turn our attention to a recent practice direction. In our jurisdiction, the Chief Justice issues practice directions and these are done pursuant to provisions in the law.{{more}}

Dress code

Practice directions are guidelines or protocol for the operation of the court. Before his departure, Chief Justice Sir Hugh Rawlins made certain directions in the courts in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) with respect to the dress code for magistrates. As is the practice, this was done after consultation and in concurrence with the governments of the several jurisdictions of the Eastern Caribbean. The practice direction took effect on September 1, 2012. According to this practice direction, magistrates may wear robes when they are presiding in open court hearings or on special occasions. Prior to the directions, wearing of robes was not uniformly applied, as some magistrates wore ordinary black or grey business suits. It is the practice to wear neck gear called bands when wearing robes. Bands appeared in the dress of lawyers in the sixteenth and seventeenth century in England. Males wear bands with wing collar shirts, while females wear bands attached to a collarette. Bands are two rectangular strips of white material hanging from a string, which is tied around the neck. The bands are usually sprayed with starch and pressed with a hot iron to keep them properly extended.

Robes in open Court

It is already the practice in the High Court and the Court of Appeal for judges to wear robes in open court hearings. It is also the practice for lawyers appearing before the court to don their robes. This is in keeping with the English tradition where advocates, whether barristers or solicitors, who appear before a judge who is robed, must also be robed. It is not unusual for a judge to refuse audience to a lawyer who is not appropriately dressed in his robe and bands.

 

No robes in Chambers

This practice of wearing robes is an old practice in England. The colonial judges adopted the same outfits. Judges and lawyers not only wore a flowing black robe, but also a white wig. The wig, as a head cover, is still worn in some courts in England, but it is not worn in our jurisdiction in the Eastern Caribbean. Robes are not required in Chambers and both judges and lawyers appear in black suits. Senior lawyers sometimes appear in grey or navy blue, but young lawyers must be attired in black suits. 

 

“Your honour,” not “your worship”

The practice direction also requires magistrates to be addressed as “your honour,” whether male or female. Magistrates have been addressed interchangeably as “your worship” or “your honour”. With this, there should be some consistency. The stated purpose of this practice direction is to arrive at uniformity, not only in our courts in SVG, but in all magistrate’s courts in the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court. The position in the High Court is quite straightforward. Judges are addressed as “My Lord” for males and “My Lady” for females. The shortened form of “m’lord” or “m’lady” is not unusual, especially with seasoned lawyers.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.

E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com

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