Hackney woman told to remove burka by crown court judge

A judge has refused to let a Muslim woman in a full-length burka enter a plea until she reveals her face. The 21-year-old from Hackney, who is charged with intimidating a witness, said she could not remove the veil in front of men because of her religion. Judge Peter Murphy said however, she could not stand trial in the veil, which only reveals her eyes, because her identity could not be confirmed. The Judge argued that the principle of open justice overrode the woman’s religious beliefs, warning that a different person could go into the dock pretending to be her if she did not show her face. Stating that, “I can’t, as a circuit judge, accept a plea from a person whose identity I am unable to ascertain.” The woman’s barrister, Claire Burtwistle, told the court the woman was not prepared to lower her veil with men in the room and suggested a female police officer or prison guard could identify the defendant and confirm it to the court. However, Judge Murphy rejected the proposal and said: “It seems to me to be quite fundamental that the court is sure who it is dealing with. Judge Murphy adjourned the case for legal argument over whether the defendant should have to remove her veil.