In order to create a child friendly atmosphere in court, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales and the Family Rules Committee have issued a new Practice Direction which will introduce the wearing of new judicial robes in family law proceedings from today.
The Lord Chief Justice has conducted extensive research including sessions where senior members of the judiciary sat with pupils in primary schools across the country to get their feedback and suggestions. After obtaining the results of these sessions, the Lord Chief Justice appointed the renowned designer Cath Kidson to design the robes.
The designer was picked because of her successful range of homeware, clothing and accessories featuring textured floral prints and brightly coloured designs that appeal to children.
The new robes (pictured) will feature Cath Kidson's famous multicoloured polka dot print and are intended to make judges more approachable for children and soften the authoritarian atmosphere of courts. In addition the courts will begin introducing brightly coloured rugs, indoor plants and bean bags.
A senior judge couldn't contain his excitement about the new robes: "Although I was initially unsure, I have grown to love the new polka dot robes. They immediately let court users know that I am a friend who they can talk to freely instead of thinking I'm someone who will judge them.
"I'm also really looking forward to sitting on bean bags in a circle instead of sitting up at the bench on my own. It can get quite lonely up there."
The Bar Council has simultaneously published guidance for advocates' court dress. The guidance states that advocates must not wear dark clothing or barristers' wigs and gowns. However advocates may wear other wigs and/or a cape if they think it will make the atmosphere more light-hearted and child friendly. The advocates' court dress code also takes effect today, 1 April 2011.