SHAFAQNA (Shia International News Association) – Britain’s most senior woman judge has called for tougher rules on compelling women who wear the Muslim veil to show their faces when giving evidence in court.
Baroness Hale of Richmond, the deputy president of the Supreme Court, said “ways have got to be found” to ensure that the Islamic face coverings, such as the niqab, are removed for key parts of a court hearing.
Judges must be able to see a witness’ face to gauge their truthfulness and it was also important to be able to identity the correct person on some occasions, the judge told the Evening Standard newspaper.
Lady Hale said the need for a “tougher” approach had been shown in one family law case in which she had detected that a mother – who had been asked to remove her face covering – was lying.
“We should devise ways of making it possible and insisting people show their full face when it is necessary,” she said.
“There must come a point where we can insist.
“We don’t object to allowing people to do things for sincerely held religious reasons if they don’t do any harm. If it does harm, we have to be a bit tougher.”
A judge ruled in September last year that a Muslim woman, Rebekah Dawson, would be allowed to stand trial on a charge of witness intimidation while wearing a full-face veil but that she must remove it while giving evidence.
Dawson, 22, initially refused to remove her niqab and was told she would be forced to take off the garment if she gave evidence, which she later declined to do.
She was convicted and jailed for six months after pleading guilty.