- Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (Mat) is one of 80 Islamic 'councils' in Britain
- Southall Black Sisters says it protects men accused of domestic violence
- Mat 'uses position of power' to persuade the CPS to drop charges brought
- Women's rights group has submitted evidence to sharia courts inquiry
- Sharia courts have been dispensing Islamic justice in UK since 1982
The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal has been accused of persuading the CPS to drop domestic violence charges and encourage women to return to abusive partners
A top sharia court has been accused of using its position to 'sabotage' criminal charges brought against men accused of domestic violence.
The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (Mat), based in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, was set up in 2007 to help resolve civil and family disputes in accordance with Islamic law.
According to the Mat website, the body cannot deal with criminal offences, but 'where there are criminal charges such as assault within the context of domestic violence, the parties can ask Mat to assist in reaching reconciliation.
'The terms of such a reconciliation can then be passed on to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) through the local Police Domestic Violence Liaison Officers with a view to reconsidering the criminal charges.'
But Southall Black Sisters, a women's rights group, argues that Mat is effectively 'sabotaging criminal proceedings' against men accused of domestic violence by asking the CPS to 'reconsider' any charges.
As part of written evidence submitted to a home affairs inquiry launched in July into sharia courts, the Southall Black Sisters questioned the role of tribunals like Mat.
In a statement, the group wrote: 'The Mat, for example, actively involves itself in criminal proceedings on domestic violence, despite stating that it is unable to deal with criminal offences.
'It uses its position of power to persuade the CPS to drop charges and to encourage women to reconcile with abusive partners without reference to court orders they may already have or to risk assessments and safety planning.'
Sharia Courts have advised the Muslim community on religious matters in the UK since 1982
It added: 'Sharia councils and the Mat hold themselves out to be ‘courts of law’ but they are in fact highly arbitrary decision making forums that use dominant, patriarchal and authoritarian interpretations of Muslim codes which are passed off as ‘sharia’ laws.'
The inquiry on sharia councils, of which there are now about 80 in Britain, is due to hear evidence from a number of witnesses on Tuesday.
A home affairs inquiry has begun on sharia councils, of which there are around 80 in Britain
Lord Macdonald, former director of public prosecutions, told The Sunday Times: 'When a formal criminal charge is laid it is not appropriate for an extrajudicial institution to bring the victim and her alleged attacker together to seek a 'resolution' beyond the control of the UK courts and certainly not where that institution itself has a questionable approach to the rights of women and to their supposed place in society.'
Mat said: 'We condemn actions taken by anyone to restrict or impede the pathway to justice sought by any victim of domestic violence.'