Saturday, October 9, 2010

Magistrates order pregnant Muslim to remove veil

Magistrates ordered a pregnant Muslim woman to remove her veil while she gave evidence against her violent ex-partner.

By Andy Bloxham
Georgina Richards, 36, initially refused for religious reasons but reluctantly agreed when JPs said they might not accept her evidence if they could not see her "facial expressions".

The case at Leicester Magistrates Court on Thursday was held up for over an hour while magistrates agreed to hear her evidence from behind a screen.

Lawrence Faulkner, one of the magistrates, told her: "We need to see a person's facial expressions to assess the evidence they are giving.

"If you refuse to remove your veil we may not be able to accept your evidence."

Miss Richards, who is heavily pregnant, gave evidence against her ex-partner Ismail Mangera, 30, from behind a screen in the courtroom.

Mangera was found guilty of punching Miss Richards in the face and scrawling abuse on her front door.

But after the hearing, Miss Richards criticised the magistrates for forcing her to remove her veil.

She said: "I was a bit unhappy that he told me to take my veil off.

"They put screens up next to me but I didn't really want to do it but I thought the case would be dropped if I didn't take it off.

"It just made me feel uncomfortable. They wanted to see the expression on my face but I don't think it really matters, I think I could have done it with my veil on."

Miss Richards told the court that her religion said she could not remove her veil in front of men in public.

The magistrates heard that Mangera attacked Miss Richards, mother to three of the couple's children and eight months pregnant with their fourth, between April 1 and April 30.

The magistrates warned Mangera he was facing jail and sentencing was deferred until October 20 to allow a probation report to be produced.

The wearing of Islamic dress has become increasingly controversial in recent years.

Jack Straw was criticised in 2006 after requesting that women lift their veil at his surgeries in his Blackburn constituency.

Mr Straw then forced a Manchester magistrate called Ian Murray to attend a course in sensitivity training after he walked out of a case where a Muslim woman defendant, Zoobia Hussain, refused to remove her veil when giving evidence.

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