October 03, 2013

Judge Peter Murphy - "England and Wales is essentially a Secular Democracy"

His Honour Judge Peter Murphy recently ruled that a female Muslim defendant in a criminal trial must remove her face-covering veil (niqaab) whilst giving evidence. On the relationship between the church and the state, he said this:
"The jurisdiction of England and Wales is essentially (though not formally) a secular democracy. I recognise that the jurisdiction is in the rather odd position that part of it (England) has an established church, while the other part (Wales) does not. But in neither part does the church interfere with the working of the courts. I do not for a moment suggest, to borrow language used in

NS, that courts should be a religion-free zone where religious beliefs and practices must be parked at the door of the court. On the contrary, the Courts must respect and protect religious rights as far as that can properly be done. But in my view, it is necessary to the working of the Crown Court in a democratic society for the Court, not the defendant, to control the conduct of judicial proceedings. A defendant cannot, by claiming to adopt a particular religious practice, oblige the court to set aside its established procedure to accommodate that practice. That would be to privilege religious practice in a discriminatory way, and would adversely affect the administration of justice."
 Adam Wagner covers it here and here.
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