High Court judges’ dress depends on the division in which they sit, the type of case they are trying and the time of year. On Red Letter days – which include the Sovereign’s birthday, the State Opening of Parliament and some Saints’ days – all judges wear the scarlet robe for the appropriate season. A short wig is worn in all cases.
Queen’s Bench judges have five sets of robes. When trying civil cases in the winter, they wear a black robe faced with fur, a black scarf and girdle and a scarlet tippet. In summer, dress includes a violet robe faced with silk, a black scarf and girdle and a scarlet tippet. When dealing with criminal cases in the winter, judges wear the scarlet robe of the ceremonial dress but without the scarlet cloth and fur mantle. The costume also includes a black scarf and girdle and a scarlet casting-hood or tippet. For criminal business in the summer, a similar scarlet robe is worn but with silk rather than fur facings.
Chancery judges have one set of scarlet and ermine robes and one of black silk. Other items include a scarf, a mantle, a hood, Black Cap, a tippet, white gloves, knee breeches and steel buckled shoes – most of these only worn on ceremonial occasions. In the Chancery and Family divisions, judges wear a court coat and waistcoat with bands and a skirt or trousers beneath a black silk gown and a short wig. Court dress is not worn in chambers.
When sitting in the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal, High Court judges wear a black silk gown and a short wig.
But what is he holding – surely not a gavel? But it doesn’t look like a black cap, either.
Although they’re often seen in cartoons and TV programmes and mentioned in almost everything else involving judges, the one place you won’t see a gavel is an English or Welsh courtroom – they are not used there.