Lots of people, I’m sure, are looking forward to seeing the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision in N.S., a sexual assault case in which the complainant was ordered to remove her niqab after the accused (her uncle and his friend) argued it interfered with their right to a fair trial.
In anticipation of the decision, which should be handed down in the near future, check out this link to What’s in a Face? Demeanour Evidence in the Sexual Assault Context, available on SSRN. The author is Ottawa Law Prof. Natasha Bakht. Natasha, who is currently on leave, is in a class of her own. She’s an award winning dancer and choreographer in addition to her “day job”; she edited Belonging and Banishment: Being Muslim in Canada. I look forward to hearing her thoughts on this case when it comes down.
What’s in a Face is part of a larger collection edited by Elizabeth Sheehy, coming from Ottawa U Press.
SEXUAL ASSAULT LAW, PRACTICE AND ACTIVISM IN A POST-JANE DOE ERA, Elizabeth Sheehy, ed., University of Ottawa Press, Forthcoming 2011 .
The case began in 2007 when a woman, now 32 and identified only as N.S., told police that her cousin and uncle repeatedly sexually abused her while she was between the ages of six and 10.
During the preliminary inquiry, which is held to see if there is enough evidence to go to trial, the judge ordered N.S. to remove her veil to testify. …..
A lawyer for one of the defendants said N.S. has not said she refuses to testify without her face covered, just that she would feel more comfortable wearing the niqab.
Without being able to view the face of a witness, clues to her demeanour are lost and impede the defendants’ ability to fully cross-examine her, Michael Dineen said.
He gave an example of a teenage witness in a recent murder trial who changed her story on the stand after a defence lawyer questioned her about smirking after giving an answer.
Want more on N.S.?
Here is a report from the hearing, which is kind of fun (the judges do seem to be leaning in N.S.’s favour). ah, the globe has put this one behind the pay wall.
Hey, and there’s no photo of a woman in a veil here, even though i could easily pick up a stock shot somewhere: See Why do Western Publishers have a Veil Fetish? http://www.slate.com/id/2153013/ by Asra Q. Nomani for an interesting argument which will resonate in your brain each time you see a picture of a nameless veiled woman illustrating a media piece.