Friday, November 10, 2006

Veil Allowed in Court

Mr Justice Hodge has ruled that full face veils may be worn in courts as long as they do not interfere with communication. He said:

The presumption is that if a representative before an asylum immigration tribunal wishes to wear a veil, has the agreement of his or her client and can be heard reasonably clearly by all parties to the proceedings, then the representative should be allowed to do so.
However, he added that if the judge cannot hear the lawyer, as was the case with Ms Mughal that sparked this decision, then "the interests of justice are not served" and the judge may ask for the veil to be removed.

Criticism has come from Conservative MP David Davies who said:
If we were in a Muslim court we would be expected to abide by their rules on dress. So why is it that this lady can work in a British court and wear whatever she likes?”
The answer, Mr Davies, is that we are better than they are. We have liberties and they do not. We shouldn't sink to their level. Another Tory MP complained that the judge in the original case was not backed. This is also wrong, because, under the new guidelines, he was right to ask her to remove her veil.

While the wearing of a veil may be culturally abhorrent, it is more abhorrent to pass legislation banning a particular item of clothing for purely cultural reasons. On the other hand, it is important that the practical problems are addressed and so they have been.