At a preliminary hearing last year on 12 September 2013 at Blackfriars Crown Court, barristers made submissions on whether it would breach human rights law to require a defendant to reveal their face. The issue came up because the defendant in the case, a Muslim woman who wore a niqaab in public, declined to remove this when asked by the judge at an earlier hearing.
This issue was a complex one and the Judge took it upon himself to produce a lengthy 35-page judgment that sought to more-or-less comprehensively deal with the issues. He decided that it was legitimate and necessary to protect the proper administration of justice to require defendants to remove any covering that obscures their face while giving evidence.
This meant that when the defendant in this case refused at the relisted hearing on 30 January 2014, she was prohibited from giving evidence in her defence. She subsequently reversed her plea and the decision therefore appears to have been immaterial to the case. But it is not hard to imagine a situation where a jury reaches the wrong decision because the defendant has been prohibited from giving evidence.
My recent article for the Discrimination Law Association’s Briefings linked here looks at the judgment and the issues in more detail.