A new law that would require Muslim women to remove a burqa or niqab to prove their identity to West Australian police has been introduced to the state’s parliament.
The legislation was drafted in specific response to public outcry about the case of burqa-wearing mother-of-seven Carnita Matthews, who had a conviction of knowingly making a false statement quashed.
Ms Matthews was originally given a six-month jail sentence after being found guilty of falsely accusing a senior constable of forcibly trying to remove her burqa when she was pulled over while driving in Woodbine in Sydney’s southwest in June 2010.
She was later acquitted on appeal after the prosecution could not prove she was the woman who signed the statement while wearing the garment.
As part of WA’s Criminal Investigation (Identifying People) Amendment Bill, the law will require “a person to remove headwear or do other things to facilitate the officer being able to confirm a person’s identity”.
Officers will also get explicit powers to detain a person while they comply.
It will apply to an item of clothing, hat, helmet, mask, sunglasses or “any other thing worn by a person that totally or partially covers the person’s head”.
The WA parliament will be told the law was in direct response to the NSW case.
“Having regard to that case, the government has taken action to ensure that similar injustices do not occur in Western Australia,” Attorney-General Michael Mischin said.
“The amendments provide a explicit power … where the subject person refuses to remove an obstruction that is preventing the officer from being able to identify the person’s face.”