WOMEN wearing the burqa or niqab who refuse to show their faces in court could face two weeks’ jail or a $1500 fine under tough laws proposed by the state Opposition.
The Coalition’s proposed laws would also give magistrates and judges the power to punish any offenders, witnesses and members of the public for yelling and protesting, or refusing to stand in court when directed to do so.
Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the changes would help address increasingly bad behaviour in courts.
“The idea that a defendant can dictate to a judge what they will or will not do is one of the reasons why there is a growing disrespect from some people for our laws and our way of life,” Mr Guy said.
Whether it is bikie gang members, professional protest groups, or anyone else — no one is free to pick and choose what laws they wish to follow.”
The laws would require government support to pass.
The Coalition argues the amendment will bridge the gap between public expectations and contempt of court laws.
Judges would be able to direct members of the public or witnesses to stand, or remove head coverings such as the Muslim niqab and burqa.
The law would also extend to political protesters and unruly defendants who cause a ruckus during proceedings despite having been warned.
Those defying instructions could face jail or a fine.
The Herald Sun understands the proposed laws will be introduced in State Parliament later this year.
New South Wales adopted similar laws last September after a woman witness refused to stand or remove her veil while giving evidence.
Last May, supporters of five Melbourne men accused of trying to flee to Syria by boat to join Islamic State declined to stand for a magistrate: lawyer Rob Stary told the magistrate the men would not stand because of their “Muslim faith”.
Shadow attorney-general John Pesutto said the laws would send a strong message.
“Why would hardened criminals obey the laws on our streets when they don’t have to in the courtroom?” he said.
A “less formal approach” has been flagged for the Children’s Court, and the law would not apply in the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. (Herald Sun)