Jail for refusal to remove veil in New South Wales

Australian authorities said motorists who refused to take off face-covering veils such as the burqa when asked to do so by police could be sent to jail for up to a year.

Under the changes to laws in New South Wales state, police will be able to ask drivers to remove helmets, masks, the face-covering niqab veil and the all-body garment the burqa. Refusal to do so would incur a fine of Aus$220 (US$228), but in the most serious cases could result in up to a year in jail and a fine of Aus$5,500.

“People will only be required to remove a face covering for as long as it takes to identify them,” New South Wales state Premier Barry O’Farrell said on Friday. “Those who want to be identified privately for cultural and religious reasons can request to go to a police station.”

The changes, to be introduced to parliament next week, will also give officials the power to request the removal of face coverings in courts while visitors to prison could also be asked to remove any coverings that obscure their identity. Those who refuse could be fined up to $550.

“I have every respect for different religions and beliefs but when it comes to enforcing the law, the police should be given adequate powers to make a clear identification,” O’Farrell said in a statement.

AFP, 19 August 2011