NEWS

Sex assault case to test court's ruling on 'veiled' testimony

04/15/2013 12:52 EDT | Updated 06/15/2013 05:12 EDT
A case pitting freedom of religion against the right to a fair trial is back in provincial court Monday for a two-day preliminary hearing in Toronto.

The Muslim woman, known as N.S. in the courts, has accused two family members of sexually assaulting her as a child but refused to remove her face veil, or niqab, during testimony.

After six years of the case making its way through the court system, the Supreme Court of Canada last December crafted new guidelines for when someone may be required to remove a face veil.

- 6 niqab legal controversies in Canada

The guidelines say a judge should consider a number of factors including a veiled witness's sincerity of belief, and whether there are ways to accommodate them, such as testifying behind a screen.

The woman's lawyer, David Butt, has said the guidelines were fair to his client.

"She's confident that she will have a very real opportunity to put her position forth, and that her position will be given the careful and respectful treatment that it deserves," Butt said.

Right to fair trial

The 4-2-1 ruling made by Canada's top court largely upheld a decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal that has also heard the case.

The woman has accused her uncle and cousin of sexually assaulting her when she was between six and 10 years old, during the 1980s.

Lawyers for the two men have in the past said a fair and open trial requires the face of a witness be seen because certain facial cues are important to establishing credibility.

Because this is the first time a judge will interpret the Supreme Court's new guidelines there may be fresh appeals based on how they are applied.

MORE:cbcNews