Judge Peter Murphy said the woman, identified in court records only as "D," must remove the facial portion of her religious veil, known as a niqab, while testifying so jurors can see her face. She will be shielded from public view during the process. Only Murphy, the jury and lawyers will be able to see the woman's face, The Guardian reported.
The woman's lawyer, Susan Meek, argued forcing her client to remove her niqab would violate her religious rights.
Murphy countered there is disagreement in the Muslim world about whether women should have to wear the veils in public and noted in many predominantly Muslim countries wearing a niqab is an individual choice.
"Whether or not there is an obligation to wear the niqab is not a subject of universal agreement within Islam; rather, it is a choice made by individual women on a personal basis," Murphy said.
Still, the compromise ruling allowing her to wear it when she isn't on the witness stand takes into account the woman's personal choice to wear the veil, which should be "respected as a manifestation of religion or belief," he said.
British courts have not ruled on whether Muslim women should be forced to show their faces in court. Murphy's ruling is expected to set precedent and faces the potential of outside legal challenges from both sides. One group advocating secular legal proceedings has pledged to challenge Murphy's decision to allow the woman to wear the niqab at all in court.