Sharia could play part in England law: top judge

Sees no reason why Sharia should not be mediation basis


The head of the judiciary in England and Wales said Thursday that Islamic sharia law could play a part in the legal system here.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Nicholas Phillips's comments came after the head of the world's Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, sparked outrage in February by saying Britain would likely adopt parts of the Islamic code.

"There is no reason why Sharia principles, or any other religious code, should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution," Phillips said in a speech at the East London Muslim Centre.

"It must be recognized, however, that any sanctions for a failure to comply with the agreed terms of mediation would be drawn from the laws of England and Wales."

There are already about a dozen Sharia courts in Britain which are mainly used to resolve family disputes but they have no formal legal status.

Phillips said there could be "no question" of physical punishments like flogging and stoning being handed down.

He stressed: "So far as the law is concerned, those who live in this country are governed by English and Welsh law and subject to the jurisdiction of the English and Welsh courts."

Williams faced calls for his resignation after saying that the adoption of some parts of Sharia law alongside the existing legal system "seems unavoidable" in some circumstances.

Phillips defended Williams on the issue, insisting his comments were "not very radical" and saying that the current system "goes a long way towards accommodating the Archbishop's suggestion."

"It is possible in this country for those who are entering into a contractual agreement to agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law," the Lord Chief Justice said.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Downing Street office said of Phillips's remarks: "We think that British law should be based on British values and determined by the British Parliament."

There are around 1.6 million Muslims living in Britain.