The British have made yet another extraordinary concession to the Muslim faith that has made legal history. Judge Peter Murphy is angry that Parliament has refused to pass a law that prohibits Muslim women from covering their faces in court. Britain's strict adherence to their "freedom of religion" core value is getting out of control. A young Muslim convert has refused to take off her niqab to give evidence at her trial for intimidation.
Judge Murphy ruled that she must remove her face veil when she gives evidence. "The jury must be able to assess the credibility of the witness and judge how they react to being questioned" he said. If she refuses to remove it, he will not allow her to give evidence.
But he's made an extraordinary concession. He will allow her to give evidence via a video link or behind a screen with only the judge, jurors and her counsel able to see her face and no artist's sketch will be allowed when she removes her veil.
He said it would "drive a coach and horses through justice administered in England and Wales for centuries" if defendants were allowed to cover their faces while giving evidence.
The Muslim convert is charged with intimidating a witness at a London mosque. She said it was against her beliefs for any man other than her husband to see her face and her lawyers say it would breach her human rights.
Judge Murphy said that according to the Human Rights of 1998 "some restriction of the right of a defendant to wear the niqab during proceedings against her in crown court is necessary in a democratic society." He urged Parliament to act and said:
Given the ever-increasing diversity of society in England and Wales, this is a question which may be expected to arise more and more frequently and to which an answer must be provided. The niqab has become the elephant in the room.
There has been widespread judicial anxiety and uncertainty and a reluctance to address the issue. I express the hope that Parliament or a higher court will review this question sooner rather than later and provide a definitive statement of the law to trial judges.