Bizarre landmark ruling on Muslim veil by English court: Now you see her, now you don't

An English court has ruled that a veiled Muslim (female?) defendant must be shielded from public view, but must be visible to judge and jury

by the commentator on 16 September 2013 12:43


In a move that has caused disquiet among many legal experts concerned that justice must not only be done but be seen to be done, an English court has reached a controversial compromise in a case centring on a female Muslim defendant's demand to wear the niqab face veil (through which only the eyes are visible via a narrow slit) in the witness box.

In an added twist, the woman can not only not be seen by the public, she cannot be named either. She stands accused of intimidating a witness in a case that may or may not relate to perversion of the course of justice.

Blackfriars Crown Court in London ruled, according to the BBC, that she (presuming it is a "she", we will not be allowed to judge for ourselves) should have, "a screen to shield her from public view but she had to be seen by him, the jury and lawyers. At other times, she would be permitted to keep her face covered while sitting in the dock."

The defence lawyer for the woman (?) said the defendant's "human rights" would be violated if she were forced against her will to show her face in public in the court room.

The Guardian newspaper described it as a "significant precedent".

The Muslim population of Britain is thought to be around 5 percent, with conservative projections for the future suggesting that that figure could easily quadruple over the coming decades.

Critics of today's judgement say that it is the thin end of the wedge and expect further compromises with English legal traditions. Supporters say it is a victory for multi-culturalism and common sense.

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