The story comes from The Clarion Project.
Woman Refuses to Lift Face Veil to Be Identified by UK Court
The judge countered that since there was a risk a different person could pretend to be her, justice trumped religious beliefs.
After a Muslim women refused to lift her veil and reveal her face in a British court, a judge in London told the woman she would not be able to enter a plea.
Judge Peter Murphy said the principle of open justice overrode the 21-year-old woman's religious beliefs and warned there was a risk a different person could go into the dock pretending to be her.
The woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, is facing charges of intimidating a witness.
The defendant countered that she could not remove the veil in front of men because of her religious beliefs. Judge Murphy responded by saying, "It is necessary for this court to be satisfied that they can recognize the defendant. While I obviously respect the right to dress in any way she wishes, certainly while outside the court, the interests of justice are paramount. I can’t, as a circuit judge, accept a plea from a person whose identity I am unable to ascertain."
He then added, "It would be easy for someone on a later occasion to appear and claim to be the defendant. The court would have no way to check on that."
The woman’s lawyer told the court the woman was not prepared to lower her veil at all while men were in the room. "In front of women, it is not an issue," she said, "It is simply men that she will not allow to see her face."
The lawyer suggested that a female police officer or a female prison guard could identify the defendant and confirm to the court that the woman is indeed the same person who appears in the police arrest photos.
Although the prosecutor said that the police officer in charge of the case was content that he recognized the defendant while she was in the burka, Judge Murphy rejected the suggestion, saying, "It seems to me to be quite fundamental that the court is sure who it is the court is dealing with. Furthermore, this court, as long as I am sitting, has the highest respect for any religious tradition a person has. In my courtroom also, this sometimes conflicts with the interests of a paramount need for the administration of justice. In my courtroom, that’s going to come first."
The judge added, "There is the principle of open justice and it can’t be subject to the religion of the defendant whether the principle is observed or not. I am not saying this because of the particular form of dress by this defendant. I apply that to any form of dress that has the same issues."
Judge Murphy adjourned the case for legal argument over whether the defendant should have to remove her veil. The case will be heard again on September 12, when the defendant is expected to enter a not guilty plea and go to trial.