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Veil row defendant admits witness intimidation charge

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

Rebekah Dawson, 21, arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court where she charged with terror offences Credit: Lewis Whyld/PA Wire/Press Association Images

The jury trying Rebekah Dawson, 22, at Blackfriars Crown Court in London was discharged 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.

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Liberty welcomes veil ruling

A civil rights campaigner has welcomed a ruling by a judge that will allow a woman to appear in court wearing a full-face veil.

Credit to Judge Murphy for seeking to balance the freedom of conscience of the defendant with the effective administration of justice.

He has shown a sensitivity and clarity that can only further build confidence in our courts in Britain's diverse communities and around the world.

– Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty

Judge: "Pressing need" to address veil issue

A Muslim woman, known only as D, has been allowed to stand trial while wearing a full-face veil but must remove it while giving evidence, a judge has ruled.

Judge Murphy said that when the woman is asked to take off the niqab ahead of giving evidence, she should be given some time to reflect.

If she refuses the judge should not allow her to give evidence and must give the jury a clear direction.

– Judge Peter Murphy, Blackfriars Crown Court

The judge said it was necessary for a democratic society to restrict the rights of a defendant to wear a niqab during court proceedings.

Balancing the right of religious manifestation against the rights and freedoms of the public, the press and other interested parties such as the complainant in the proper administration of justice, the latter must prevail over D's right to manifest her religion or belief during the proceedings against her to the extent necessary in the interests of justice.

No tradition or practice, whether religious or otherwise, can claim to occupy such a privileged position that the rule of law, open justice and the adversarial trial process are sacrificed to accommodate it.That is not a discrimination against religion, it is a matter of upholding the rule of law in a democratic society.

– Judge Peter Murphy, Blackfriars Crown Court

Muslim must remove veil when giving evidence

A Muslim woman will be allowed to stand trial while wearing a full-face veil but must remove it while giving evidence, a judge has ruled.

Lawyers for the woman, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, had argued that it would breach her human rights and be counter to Britain's tolerance of Islamic dress to remove her niqab against her wishes.

In general, the defendant is free to wear the niqab during trial.If the defendant gives evidence she must remove the niqab throughout her evidence.The court may use its inherent powers to do what it can to alleviate any discomfort, for example by allowing the use of screens or allowing her to give evidence by live link.

– Judge Peter Murphy, Blackfriars Crown Court

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