A friend of mine has just been made a High Court judge. Among the majestic paraphernalia that he has had to acquire—the scarlet robes, the wigs full-bottomed and otherwise, the pressed white gloves, the satin gaiters, the silver buckles and so forth—is a square of black silk, the Black Cap, that the court usher places on top of his wig before he pronounces the death penalty: or rather, would have had to place on top of his wig had the death penalty not been abolished in England thirty-eight years ago.

It seems that the judges' kit-list has fallen a little behind legal reality, whether through nostalgia for a better past, or in the faint hope of restoration, or through the slight inertia that preserves us (or used to preserve us) from ill-judged and over-hasty innovation, it is not for me to say. I do not think my friend would have cared much in any case to pronounce in public those magniloquent dread words—The sentence of...

 
Popular Right Now