Lawyer for Muslim woman pleased with Supreme Court veil ruling

Credits: REUTERS

Sam Pazzano | QMI AGENCY

TORONTO -- A lawyer representing the Muslim woman who won a Supreme Court of Canada decision permitting a witness to wear a religious veil said he's pleased with the compromise decision.

David Butt said the top court's ruling is the "best outcome anyone should or could hope for."
Canada's top court ruled Thursday that under certain circumstances a Muslim woman can wear a veil during court testimony.

The ruling recognizes "it's important to balance the two competing rights -- the right of religion and the right to full answer and defence," Butt said outside the courthouse.

In a split decision, the judges mostly upheld an Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that offered a compromise and laid out a legal test that would help decide whether a veiled woman could testify.

The decision will impact Butt's client, a mature married working woman who has accused her uncle and cousin of sexually assaulting her as a child.

The preliminary hearing resumes in February, but Butt said his client, whose name is protected by a publication ban and is known only as N.S., "hasn't turned her mind to the question" of whether she'll testify without her veil if ordered by the judge.

The courts have devised solutions in other troublesome scenarios that involved reluctant witnesses.

For example, in cases where young witnesses didn't want to face adult relatives in molestation trials, the children testified behind reflective screens.

These devices allowed the accused to view the witness but shielded the witness from the accused.

Closed-circuit TV works the same way, Butt said.

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