The Black Cap was worn by a judge when passing a sentence of death in British and Irish law. Although named a ‘cap’, the Black Cap is not really a fitted cap rather a plain square of black cloth which was based on Tudor court headgear.
When the Black Cap is worn, it’s placed on top of the judicial wig, with one corner of the black fabric facing forward.
Even though the abolition of the death penalty in the United Kingdom was in 1965, the Black cap still remains part of a judge’s official regalia, and as such it is still carried into the High Court of Justice by each sitting judge when in full ceremonial dress.
It is worn every year on 9th November, when the new Lord Mayor of the City of London is presented to the Law Courts. It is also part of the regalia of a judge of the High Court of Northern Ireland.
The Black Cap was also used in the Republic of Ireland, where the legal system was modelled on the English courts, until the death penalty was officially abolished in 1990 although no death sentences had been passed since 1954.
The Black Cap was worn by judges in Northern Ireland passing death sentences until the death penalty was officially abolished by the Northern Ireland in 1973.