The Law Society has welcomed a proposal made by the Cabinet yesterday (22 July) to change the system of oaths and affirmations made by witnesses in courts.
The society has campaigned for many years on the issue, and President Michele O’Boyle said the current system, which dates back to 1888, was “contrary to the right to privacy and contrary to a person’s dignity in legal proceedings”.
The changes are being proposed in the Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2020, under which witnesses would instead make a “statement of truth”.
“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,” said Ms O’Boyle.
The Law Society has argued for many years that the system needed to be modernised.
“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,” said the president.
She noted, however, that jurors and witnesses giving evidence in person 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,” said Ms O’Boyle.