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.

If representative government were merely a matter of reflecting the population’s wishes, the death penalty in Britain would never have been abolished and would be re-instituted forthwith.

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...

 

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