Having campaigned for many years on the issue, the Law Society of Ireland welcomes the proposal made by Cabinet yesterday in the Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020 to change the system whereby witnesses must indicate their religious faith when filing an affidavit.
Law Society of Ireland President Michele O’Boyle said, “The current system of oaths and affirmations, which dates back to 1888, is contrary to the right to privacy and contrary to a person’s dignity in legal proceedings. Requiring a person to either declare one’s religious conviction, or lack thereof, is, by any standard entirely inappropriate in a progressive, 21st century legal system.”
The Law Society has campaigned for many years on the need for a modernisation of the system. Ms O’Boyle explains, “Among other issues, the Society argues that, not only does it represent significant procedural challenges for practitioners in an increasingly pluralist society, it also can give rise to unfair perceptions on the credibility of the evidence given where individuals decline to take a religious oath.”
Ms O’Boyle noted, however, that jurors and witnesses giving evidence viva voce in court are still required to swear a religious oath or make an affirmation. “We believe the oath-based system should be replaced entirely, to reflect the diversity and inclusivity of Ireland today.”
“We welcome these proposed changes when written and electronic affidavits are being filed. We also welcome this change in the context of Covid-related safety issues, allowing witnesses, for the first time, to make a statement of truth electronically.”
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