A London judge has refused to let a Muslim woman in a full face-covering burqa to enter a plea until she showed her face to the court.
Clarion Project (h/t Susan K) After a Muslim women refused to lift her headbag and reveal her face in a British court, the judge told the woman she would not be able to enter a plea because there is no way to tell if the woman charged is the woman behind the veil.
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 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.