Editorial: What not to wear at a murder trial

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Laura McQuillan. Photo / Heather du Plessis-Allan
Laura McQuillan. Photo / Heather du Plessis-Allan

Courts are formal, serious places, as befits the gravity of proceedings there. Quite rightly, judges are keen to underline that characteristic.

Reporter Laura McQuillan could, therefore, have no grounds for valid objection when her sequinned pants prompted her ejection from the press bench of the High Court at Wellington during the Scott Guy murder trial.

Dress says a lot about a person's respect for the environment in which they find themselves. Not for nothing are those who appear before the court advised to avoid trendy clothing or loud colours.

This is part of seeking to look as serious, reasonable and modest as possible. The overall aim is to avoid standing out or drawing attention in any manner. A similar, if less calculating, standard is expected on the press bench.

But in her choice of clothing, McQuillan went out of her way to stand out.

It was futile of her to claim, "I'm sitting under a table. No one even sees my legs."

Her movement to and from the press bench was calculated to draw attention. Gold sparkly disco pants are the norm on nights out, not in a courtroom where a high-profile murder trial is in progress.

Her NZ Newswire editor-in-chief declared it "a funny old world" when a reporter's choice of clothing warranted reporting by the Herald. More to the point, he noted that the court had made the right call because McQuillan's attire had been inappropriate. As was the degree of respect she accorded the court and its proceedings.

- NZ Herald

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