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Veil row defendant admits charge

A Muslim woman who was allowed to wear a full-face veil in court during her trial has admitted witness intimidation.

The jury trying Rebekah Dawson, 22, at Blackfriars Crown Court in London was discharged this afternoon after failing to reach a verdict after deliberating for more than 12 hours.

But in a dramatic twist after a short delay, Dawson came back into court and admitted the same charge of witness intimidation that she had denied at trial.

The jury had also failed to reach a verdict in the case of her brother Matthias Dawson, 32, who faced the same charge.

Prosecutor Kate Wilkinson said the crown would offer no evidence against him following his sister's guilty plea and he walked free from court.

Rebekah Dawson wore a niqab that showed just her eyes during the seven-day trial.

She had waived her right to give evidence in her defence during the trial after being told by Judge Peter Murphy that she would have to show her face to the jury.

She had argued it was against her religious views to show her face to men.

Judge Murphy released Dawson, of Hackney, east London, on bail ahead of sentencing on a date to be fixed.

She intimidated Daudi Yusuf, a security guard at the Finsbury Park mosque in north London, last June, several weeks after he was involved in a row with her husband, Royal Barnes.

Dawson was granted the right to wear the niqab in court after her barrister, Susan Meek, argued in legal hearings last September that it would be against her human rights and contrary to the UK's tolerant attitude to Islamic dress to force her to take it off.

But Judge Murphy ruled then that Dawson would have to allow the mixed-sex jury to see her face if she took to the witness box in her own defence during the trial.

After she declined to do so on Monday, Judge Murphy told the jurors they could assume she made the decision because of her religious beliefs.

But he said that Dawson was "fully entitled" to dress how she chose to in court.

He told jurors to put aside any feelings they might have about her appearance because they would have nothing to do with the case.

Ms Meek told jurors that her client's veil had been the "elephant in the room" during the trial but they should ignore it while deciding on their verdicts.

Summing up Dawson's defence case on Monday, Ms Meek said: "She was given a choice by the judge - she either gave evidence with the niqab off or she remained in the dock with it on. She has remained in the dock.

"You have to try the case on the evidence you have heard in the courtroom without having heard from her."

She added: "This is not a trial about the niqab, the niqab is not on trial in this courtroom.

"This is a woman accused of a criminal offence who happens to wear a niqab."

The judiciary is looking into whether judges need updated guidance on what clothing can be worn in court.

A judicial spokeswoman said: "The Lord Chief Justice has previously indicated his intention to consult on updated guidance to the judiciary."


From Belfast Telegraph