Muslim women should be made to remove their veils when giving evidence in court, Britain’s top female judge has said in a controversial interview.
Speaking to London newspaper the Evening Standard, Baroness Hale, deputy president of the country’s Supreme Court, said seeing faces could be ‘important’ and ‘necessary’ when women were testifying, including times when the question of identity was at stake.
And she said ways had ‘got be found’ to ensure veils were removed for key parts of hearings.
She told the newspaper: ‘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.’
But she said it might be possible to use a screen to ‘accommodate’ a woman’s religious beliefs, the newspaper added.
She added: ‘There are other situations, not only giving evidence, when it’s necessary to be able to recognise people and identify people. If it's necessary to see their face then ways have got to be found to allow that to happen.’
Currently there is no law in Britain requiring Muslim women to remove their veils, unlike in France where there is a ban on women wearing veils in public places.
Britain’s Lord Chief Justice vowed in 2013 to publish guidelines on the issues after defendant Rebekah Dawson – accused of witness intimidation - refused to remove her veil. The trial judge told her she would have to show her face if giving evidence.
Dawson was later jailed for six months after pleading guilty.
Top British judge says Muslim women should remove veils in court