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Attorney General's Chambers
Penthouse Floor
Global House
43 Church Street
Hamilton HM 12 Bermuda
History of Chambers  

Bermuda’s Attorney-General’s Chambers have been in continuous existence since 1698.  During those 300-plus years the Chambers have witnessed many evolutions.  From 1698 to 1 April 1999, the Attorney-General was the principal legal advisor to the Government of Bermuda.  In addition to being the chief legal advisor he was also the principal prosecutor in all criminal matters in the Island’s Courts.

Over the past 306 years 53 persons served as Attorney-General of Bermuda, appointed by the Governor.  They were all public officers and mostly men.  Through the years the Attorney-General’s Chambers expanded reflecting the development and growth of Bermuda.  Up to 1st January 2011, there were some 20 lawyers serving in the Chambers.  It was broadly divided into 3 categories: Advocacy, Advisory and Drafting.  This can be further subdivided into Civil and Criminal litigation with the Attorney-General being the principal public prosecutor as well as the principal adviser to the Government as provided in the Bermuda Constitution Order 1968.

November 9th, 1998 ushered in an array of “firsts” in Bermuda’s 30 years history of party politics.  The Progressive Labour Party (PLP) won its first general election and with this victory dramatic changes occurred.  It appointed the Island’s first political Attorney General in the person of Dame Lois Browne-Evans who was the first ever woman to hold this office, thus becoming the Island’s 41st Attorney General.  She was also Bermuda’s first female lawyer having been called to the Bermuda Bar in December 1953.  With the introduction of a political Attorney-General as provided for under the Constitution, criminal prosecutions were taken out of the responsibility of the now political Attorney-General.  We now have a new officer known as the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).  He/She now conducts all criminal matters.  This has resulted in two separate and distinct offices.  The Attorney-General however remains the superintendent of the DPP and is also Bermuda’s Minister of Justice.  This is yet another, first!

History of Wigs and Gowns  

As one of Britain’s oldest overseas dependent territories, Bermuda boasts a legal system much revered and respected universally.  Its laws are English Common Law, Principles of Equity, and most of the English Acts that were in being as from 11 July 1612.  However, these latter laws and principles are subject to legislation passed by Bermuda’s Legislature from that date.

Bermuda’s legal practice and procedure also mirrors the UK in its traditional outer form.  The Puisine judges of the High Court, known locally as the Supreme Court headed by a Chief Justice, all don the unmistakable full bottom wig and gown whether it is the brilliant ermine for criminal proceedings or the somber black in civil cases.  Even the barristers appearing in the Supreme Court, Queen’s Counsel (QC) and junior barristers are, to use the local vernacular, “decked out” in the infamous wig and gown.  The QCs wear silk gowns while the juniors of whatever age or calling wear the stuffed gowns.  Seniority is established by one’s Call to the Bar.

While the wig was the vogue during the reign of George II from about 1714, it made its debut under Queen Anne in 1702, and from the founding days of Bermuda (or the Somers Islands) in 1609 the wearing of the wig and gown also became the Bermuda custom.

The renowned horsehair with its tightly made stiff curls was especially made for its wearer.  Unlike one’s natural hair which ages/changes with one’s age this is not so for the horsehair.  Rather it literally changes with usage and handling.

The stuffed gown worn by junior barristers retains to this day a fiscal relic of days gone by – a symbol of the fact that barristers could not sue for their fees.  They therefore carried their collection sack on their backs in which their grateful clients deposited their financial appreciation.  So, the next time you see a barrister in court closely observe the back of his robe over his left shoulder and you will see there his replica pouch for his satisfied clients!