Public called to assist in witness oath and affirmation review

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The South Australian Law Reform Institute (SALRI) will today issue a paper calling for public submissions on a review of witness oaths and affirmations.

The issues paper considers whether procedures for swearing in a witness in court could be simplified, discusses problems with the effectiveness of witness oaths and affirmations and offers alternatives for consideration.

Professor John Williams, Dean of Law at the University of Adelaide and Director of the SALRI, says one of the problems identified in the issues paper is that people don't always understand the meaning of oaths and affirmations.

"The rationale for requiring witnesses to swear to tell the truth (either as an oath or an affirmation) is to secure truthful testimonies - the act of swearing has traditionally been seen as increasing the likelihood of telling the truth. However, some people don't understand the meaning of the ritual and others find the unfamilar and old-fashioned language confusing, so this paper asks whether there needs to be a change and, if so, what that change may be," Professor Williams says.

The issues paper was prepared in response to a request for a review of these laws by the Attorney-General of South Australia, the Hon. John Rau MP, after considering a recommendation by Judge Peggy Hora for a separate witness oath for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders.

"Rather than develop an oath specifically for Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders, I feel it's more appropriate to consider whether the current wording of the oath may be simplified and modernised so it's suitable for all people residing in South Australia," the Mr Rau says.

"The South Australian Law Reform Institute provides the ideal platform for addressing this issue and I look forward to seeing the final paper and associated recommendations."

The SALRI wants to hear from people from various ethnic and religious groups, as well as legal professionals, language experts, psychologists and people who have given evidence in court.

The issues paper and information about how to make a submission can be found on the SALRI web page: Submissions must be received by Friday 17 January 2014.

After receiving written submissions, SALRI will conduct discussion forums with interested groups before preparing a final report containing recommendations to submit to the state Attorney-General.

SALRI will also present Surety Guarantees for Letters of Administration, the final report into the Administration and Probate Act 1919 (SA), to the State Attorney-General today. This is available on the SALRI web page.

The SALRI was established in December 2010 by agreement between the Attorney-General of South Australia, the University of Adelaide and the Law Society of South Australia. It is based at the University of Adelaide.


Contact Details

Professor John Williams
Dean of Law School
Director, South Australian Law Reform Institute
The University of Adelaide

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The University of Adelaide
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