The Lord Chief Justice has said that in some parts of the legal system, principles of sharia law could play a role.
But Lord Philips of Worth Matravers (photo, from bbc.co.uk), the most senior judge in England and Wales, added that there is no possibility of sharia courts sitting in the UK. He said there was no reason sharia law’s principles could not be used in mediation.
When he said that the use of certain aspects of the law “seems unavoidable”, the Archbishop of Canterbury prompted controversy.
Sharia is a set of principles which govern the way many Muslims believe one should live one’s life.
It suffered from “widespread misunderstanding”, said Lord Philips, during a speech at the East London Muslim Centre, in Whitechapel.
He said : “There is no reason why sharia principles, or any other religious code, should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution.
“It must be recognised, however, that any sanctions for a failure to comply with the agreed terms of mediation would be drawn from the laws of England and Wales.”
‘Governed by English and Welsh law’
But flogging, stoning, the cutting off of hands and other severe physical punishments would not be acceptable, Lord Philips added.
“There can be no question of such courts sitting in this country, or such sanctions being applied here.”
“So far as the law is concerned, those who live in this country are governed by English and Welsh law and subject to the jurisdiction of the English and Welsh courts.”
The judge also said that Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury (photo, from guardian.co.uk), had been misunderstood in February, when it was reported that he said British Muslims could be governed by sharia law.
He suggested that sharia could play a role in “aspects of marital law, the regulation of financial transactions and authorised structures of mediation and conflict resolution”.
Lord Phillips said : “It was not very radical to advocate embracing sharia law in the context of family disputes, for example, and our system already goes a long way towards accommodating the archbishop’s suggestion.”
“It is possible in this country for those who are entering into a contractual agreement to agree that the agreement shall be governed by a law other than English law.”