JUST for once Winchester Crown Court shrugged off the sombre air of a building in which murderers are jailed - and instead echoed to the sound of uproarious laughter.

In order to raise money for its Witness Support Service, solicitors, ushers, cleaners, probation officers, judges and security staff shed their robes and suits to model vintage designs for a charity fashion show.

With clothes supplied by Winchester outfitters Vintage Hound and Stardust Years, the court’s first floor gallery was tranformed into a cat-walk lined with 180 guests clutching glasses of bubbly, as staff sashayed and strutted, then struck the occasional pose.

It was soon apparent that Sylvia Anderson-Lewis – the court’s receptionist – should be in showbiz.

She chivvied her models along with dollops of dry-humour, while whirring through the notes on her clipboard to find the correct description for the frocks, suits and Hawaiian shirts being shown.

“Pause while I find the right place, give them a twirl,” she urged His Honour Judge Keith Cutler, who obliged with a gentle flourish.

To be fair there was quite alot of ‘waving to the mayor’ rather than the clothes horses keeping their minds fully on the job.

Diminutive model Archie could have caused controversy for wearing “a beautiful blond fur coat” were it not for the fact that he is His Honour Judge Boney’s Labrador.

While the event was light-hearted - the cause for which they were raising money is not.

Winchester’s Crown Court is the most senior in the Western Circuit, with around 20 murder trials held there each year, as well as major rape, robbery and fraud cases.

The Witness Service’s team of volunteers support vulnerable witnesses before and after they give evidence.

So crucial is the charity’s input that senior Gloucester police officers wrote to thank them for helping to secure the conviction of infamous multi-murderer Rosemary West after her Winchester trial.

Witness Support manager Carolyn Martin said the event raised £3,000, which will be used to further train her band of 30 volunteers.

“A month ago we had only sold 40 tickets - so we were over the moon when nearly 200 turned up,” she said.

“And we were surprised to find how the court lends itself to having a catwalk.”