Leicester magistrates ordered victim of domestic violence to remove veil before they would hear her evidence
A Muslim woman was asked to take off her veil in court to give evidence against her former partner in an assault case.
Georgina Richards agreed to remove it after Leicester magistrates warned they might not be able to accept her evidence if she did not. The 36-year-old was a witness at the trial of her former partner Ismail Mangera, later found guilty of punching her in the face and scrawling abuse on her front door.
During the hearing, chairman of the bench Lawrence Faulkner told Miss Richards: “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 pregnant, told the court her religion states she should not remove her veil in front of men in public. She agreed to remove it when she was allowed to give evidence from behind a screen in the courtroom. Only the male chairman of the bench and two female magistrates could see her.
However, speaking after the case, Miss Richards said it had still made her feel uncomfortable. 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 Mangera (30) had punched her in the mouth and knocked a tooth out.
“It seems to me entirely inappropriate for anyone to appear in court with their face covered, be they judge, witness or suspect. Everyone should be able to see everyone else’s face. There is no justification for her being allowed to give evidence from behind a screen, either. Would they have let a man in a motorcycle helmet give evidence in court? I doubt it.”