§ Mr. Gerald Bowden
asked the Attorney-General what representations he has received about the procedure in court whereby a witness or a juror is required to state his reason for wishing to affirm rather than take the oath; and if he will make a statement.
§ The Solicitor-General
I have recently received representations from my hon. Friend on behalf of one of his constituents who was seeking clarification as to the procedure when a person involved in legal proceedings wishes to make a solemn affirmation rather than take the oath. In particular, he wished to know whether such a person is required to give his reasons.
Until the passage of the Administration of Justice Act 1977 when a witness or a juror in legal proceedings wished to affirm the court was bound by the terms of section 1 of the Oaths Act 1888 to inquire as to the person's reasons for wishing to affirm to establish whether the ground of his objection to being sworn was either that he had no religious belief or that the taking of an oath was contrary to his religious belief. However, this provision was repealed by section 8 of the Administration of Justice Act 1977 which permitted a person who objected to being sworn to make his solemn affirmation without giving his reasons. The present position is covered by section 5(1) of the Oaths Act 1978 which consolidated section 8 of the Administration of Justice Act 1977 and permits an individual to affirm as of right without any requirement to give his reasons.