Judge refuses to allow defendant to plead while wearing burka
A judge has refused to allow a Muslim woman to enter a plea in court until she removed her burka, claiming he could not confirm the woman’s identity without seeing her face.
The 21-year-old woman from Hackney in east London, who is accused of witness intimidation, had refused to take off the full-length veil and reveal her face at Blackfriars Crown Court, the Judicial Office confirmed.
Judge Peter Murphy said there was a risk that a different person could pretend to be the defendant in the dock, and argued that the principle of open justice was more important than the woman’s religious beliefs.
He also refused a request from the woman’s barrister for a female police officer or prison guard to confirm that she was the same person as in police arrest pictures.
The judge reportedly told the woman: “I can’t, as a circuit judge, accept a plea from a person whose identity I am unable to ascertain.”
A Judicial Office spokeswoman said: “There was an issue with the judge asking to confirm the identity of the woman and he has adjourned the case until September 12, when he may hear legal argument about the issue.”
The defendant is alleged to have intimidated a witness in Finsbury Park, north London, in June.
Official guidelines were issued to judges in 2009 suggesting a “range of different possible approaches” to the matter of women wearing a burka or niqab in court, but stating that “the interests of justice remain paramount”.
The guidelines state: “For a witness or defendant a sensitive request to remove a veil, with no sense of obligation or pressure, may be appropriate, but careful thought must be given to such a request.
“The very fact of appearing in a court or tribunal will be quite traumatic for many, and additional pressure may well have an adverse impact on the quality of evidence given.”
While there is no ban on Islamic dress in public places in the UK, schools have been allowed to forge their own dress codes after a 2007 directive which followed several high-profile court cases.
The controversial garment has been the subject of an attempted ban within Parliament, however, with Tory MPs listing “ban the burka” as a proposed Private Members Bill earlier this year, alongside bringing back the death penalty and abolishing the position of Deputy Prime Minister.
The UK Independence Party, which argues that the burka is a sign of an “increasingly divided Britain”, has long supported a public ban, claiming the religious veils pose a potential security risk.
Ukip became the first British party to call for a total ban in January 2010. Both France and Belgium have banned the full-face veil from public places.
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Nigel Farage: I’m taking on the status quo, and the Establishment’s fighting back
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 1 Are you turning into your dad? The top ten signs you've embraced dad-ism revealed as survey says 38 is age men turn into their father
- 2 Overheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
- 3 Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Grace Dent on TV: Game of Thrones has jumped the shark