Chapter 20 » 20.51

Honesty and integrity

Oaths and affirmation

England and Wales

The opportunity to bear witness to our ancient testimony against oaths will come to most Friends only on the rare occasions when they have to give evidence, serve on a jury or act in some other legal capacity. It is none the less a testimony to be cherished. The occasion of making an affirmation can be spiritually enriching and stands in a long and honourable tradition.

Evidence given by a person who affirms is legally of equal value with ‘sworn’ evidence. So is any other action performed or duty undertaken following affirmation, including jury service. This principle that ‘a solemn affirmation shall be of the same force and effect as an oath’ (section 5 (4) of the Oaths Act 1978) applies in all circumstances; another example is the affidavit sworn when applying for a grant of probate, which may equally be replaced by affirmation.

It is of assistance to let the clerk of a court know in advance of an intention to affirm, though there is no obligation to do so. The right to affirm is now absolute, with no requirement to state a reason for preferring affirmation to the swearing of an oath.

The form of oral affirmation prescribed in all places and for all purposes where an oath is or shall be required by law is as follows: ‘I, [name], do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm’: and then follows the substance of the affirmation. A witness may affirm, for example, that ‘the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ or ‘that I shall tell the truth’; a juror in a criminal trial ‘that I will faithfully try the defendant(s) and give (a) true verdict(s) according to the evidence’, and in civil proceedings ‘that I will well and truly try the issues joined between the parties and a true verdict give according to the evidence’.

Written affirmations are also admissible, for example under section 6 of the Oaths Act 1978, or in other legal capacities as appropriate. Every affirmation in writing shall commence: ‘I AB of X do solemnly and sincerely affirm’, and the form in lieu of jurat shall be ‘affirmed at X this … day of … 19../20.. before me [name]’.

1967; 1994

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