Govt buys London wigs for judges

THE Judiciary Service Commission has placed orders for 64 wigs made of horsehair from the exclusive and expensive Stanley Ley Legal Outfitters in England, the Zimbabwe Independent has learnt.

By Owen Gagare

The price of wigs at the shop — established in 1903 in the Chancery Lane area of the City of London — ranges between £1 329,17 (US$1 744,24) and £2 495,83 (US$3 274,51) each. The JSC ordered 64 wigs at £1 850 (US$2 426,99) each costing a total of £118 400 (US$155 286,80).

According to Stanley Ley website, the shop has “provided robing, bespoke tailored clothing and accessories to the members of the English Bar and the legal profession for many years.”

It says “all wigs at the shop “are handmade by craftsmen in England using traditional methods unchanged over centuries”.

“They are made from 100% pure horsehair,” the website says.

Some of the wigs were delivered to the JSC this week, Justice ministry officials revealed.

The delivery of the wigs come at a time there is debate raging in the top echelons of the judiciary on whether Zimbabwean judges should continue using the wigs, which some regard as a colonial relic. Those in support of wearing wigs, including Chief Justice Luke Malaba, sources said, argue they are important to maintain tradition and professionalism.

Some judges, however, believe wigs have nothing to do with professionalism, while others are against the head gear citing exorbitant costs. They also argue that the wigs have been abandoned in several Commonwealth countries like South Africa and Kenya, while their role has decreased in Britain, from whom the practise was adopted.

Judges in Britain wear wigs only when hearing criminal matters as part of dress code reforms in 2008, ending a centuries-old tradition.

Zimbabwean judges wear gowns and wigs while in court.

The gowns are made locally at Zimbabwean Prison Services, but the wigs are purchased from the exclusive shop, which specialises in legal robes and gowns, wigs for barristers and judges, legal wigs, lawyers legal wear and attorneys legal wear.

It also specialises in court tunic shirts, shirts and tunics, starched collars, soft collars, stiff collars, collar studs, collar stiffeners, barrister bands, tie bands, wig stands, cuffs links and other legal accessories.

Meanwhile, the JSC is seeking 10 new judges.

“Eight of the judges will be stationed at the High Court while two will be stationed at the Supreme Court,” an official in the Justice Ministry revealed.

“This means more wigs will have to be purchased. Additional judges will also be recruited next year because the Constitutional Court — the highest court in the land — will have its own judges. At least seven judges will be appointed to the Constitutional Court.”
The Constitutional Court is currently manned by Supreme Court judges.

The JSC, in adverts running today, invited the public to apply for eight High Court judges and two Supreme Court judges vacancies that have arisen.

According to section 178 of the constitution, a person is qualified for appointment as a judge of the High Court or Supreme Court if he or she is a Zimbabwean citizen and is at least forty years old.

A person also qualifies for the job by virtue of having been “a judge of a court with unlimited jurisdiction in civil or criminal matters in a country in which the common law is Roman-Dutch or English and English is an officially recognised language, or:
“For at least seven years, whether continuously or not, he or she has been qualified to practise as a legal practitioner in Zimbabwe; or in a country in which the common law is Roman–Dutch or English and English is an officially recognised language; or
“If he or she is a Zimbabwean citizen, in a country in which common law is English and English is an officially recognised language and is currently so qualified to practice.”

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