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Top judge's veil views clarified

Published 18/04/2015

The UK's most senior judge Lord Neuberger said courts should understand different religious customs
The UK's most senior judge Lord Neuberger said courts should understand different religious customs

The UK's most senior judge has clarified his position on whether Muslim women should be allowed to wear a full-face veil while giving evidence.

In a lecture last week, Lord Neuberger said that judges must have "an understanding of different cultural and social habits".

But a spokesman for the Supreme Court said he had not backed the idea of court witnesses being able to wear full-face veils.

In his address, the Supreme Court president said: "It is necessary to have some understanding as to how people from different cultural, social, religious or other backgrounds think and behave and how they expect others to behave.

"Well known examples include how some religions consider it inappropriate to take the oath, how some people consider it rude to look other people in the eye, how some women find it inappropriate to appear in public with their face uncovered, and how some people deem it inappropriate to confront others or to be confronted - for instance with an outright denial."

A spokesman for the Supreme Court said today: "Following various media reports based on a lecture he gave last week, Lord Neuberger would like to emphasise that he did not say that Muslim women should be allowed to wear a full-face veil while giving evidence in court.

"His lecture was aimed at encouraging judges to develop a greater understanding of the perspectives of those less experienced in the criminal justice system, especially when faced with having to give evidence or face cross-examination.

"Lord Neuberger mentioned a number of examples of cultural and religious views and practices which might lead some people to find such an experience intimidating, but made it clear that the court's primary duty is to establish the truth and determine cases fairly."

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