Judge asks woman to lift her veil in court

A judge asked a woman to lift her full Muslim veil, three weeks after a Manchester magistrate walked out of her previous hearing because her face was covered. District Judge Diana Baker allowed Zoobia Hussain, aged 32, to give evidence from behind a screen in her trial at Manchester Magistrates’ Court on a charge of criminal damage.

Judge Baker said: “I understand the importance to a Muslim woman of being able to wear her veil because that is an important part of her cultural and religious identity. But when I make an assessment of people giving evidence I look at their facial expressions and I can only see Mrs Hussain’s eyes. My view is that when giving evidence it is important for me in my judicial decision-making role to be able to see her face.”

She said Hussain could sit behind a screen so that the male prosecutor and clerk could not see her face. Prosecutor Nicholas Vitti said he accepted the need for special measures, but made clear he was “not happy” he could not see Hussain’s face.

Bolton News, 19 July 2007