This report analyses restrictions on veiling in the courtroom and explores whether there is a basis to limit veiling in accordance with the principles of justice, the rule of law, current research and the right to religious freedom.
Aside from some general and practically evasive guidelines from the Equal Treatment Bench Book (ETBB), the issue of niqab-wearing women in the courtroom remains unexplored. This is partly due to the infrequent interaction of niqab-wearing women with the legal system and partly because many women who usually veil, unveil in the courtroom. Clarity of law is important in any rights-based society, and is especially crucial when it may result in institutionalised restrictions on the freedom of religion.
This paper seeks to address the question of whether any witness, including a defendant, should be permitted to wear the niqab whilst giving evidence in the courtroom, and highlights the illegitimacy and inconsistencies of the status quo.