Monday, 16 September 2013

Judge Murphy and the veil

For sometime now UK has failed to ensure social justice when it comes to religious expression. Many professionals are obstructed in their attempt to do their job properly because of the bias towards religious expression.

Recently, Judge Murphy in London had difficulty with a witness who covered her face with a veil on religious grounds. This posed a problem of identification but also a problem in the exercise of the professional duty as a judge. It is an accepted legal practice that facial expressions, tone of voice and mannerism of witnesses do matter in courts.

Whatever Judge Murphy decides with respect to the wearing of  the said veil there could be objections: if he permits the veil there could be objections to that as other witnesses are judged on their verbal expressions, tone of voice, mannerisms. 

If he allowed witness to be screened from public view while without veil then he risks public hearing not being what many may expect it to be. Public present in court would want to see the witness too. It is not mere curiosity. Public also look at facial expressions, mannerisms, listen to tone of voice of witnesses. Similarly, those judging them are observed. How can one judge a judge's decision making or questioning when one does not really know what behaviour of witness he/she may be reacting to?

This mess can be solved politically, but UK is unlike France which published secular charter in all schools and is a secular state.

Judges have suffered in other European countries too, for example, an Italian judge Luigi Tosti in his attempt to remove cricifix from the courtroom. 

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