Sworn testimony

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Sworn testimony is evidence given by a witness who has made a commitment to tell the truth. If the witness is later found to have lied whilst bound by the commitment, they can often be charged with the crime of perjury. The types of commitment can include oaths, affirmations and promises which are explained in more detail below. The exact wording of the commitments vary from country to country.

Types of commitment[edit]

The commitment can come in different forms depending on the situation of the witness. The types of commitment used in the United Kingdom are:

  • Oath: A commitment made to the witness's deity, or on their holy book.
  • Affirmation: A secular variant of the oath where the witness does not have to mention a deity or holy book.
  • Promise: A commitment made by a witness under the age of 17, or of all witnesses if none of the accused are over the age of 17.

Variations by country[edit]

South Africa[edit]

Oath:

I swear that the evidence that I shall give, shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God.[1]

Affirmation:

I solemnly affirm that the evidence that I shall give, shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.[2]

United Kingdom[edit]

England and Wales[edit]

Oath:

I swear by [substitute Almighty God/Name of God (such as Allah) or the name of the holy scripture] that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Affirmation

I do solemnly and sincerely and truly declare and affirm that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Promise

I promise before Almighty God that the evidence which I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. [4]

In the UK, you cannot give sworn testimony until you are 12 years old.[citation needed]

Scotland[edit]

Oath:

I swear by Almighty God that I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. [3]

Affirmation:

I solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm that I will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

United States[edit]

Oath:

Do you solemnly (swear/affirm) that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, (so help you God/under pains and penalties of perjury)?

Swear may be replaced with "affirm", and either "so help you God" or "under pains and penalties of perjury" may be used; all oaths and affirmations are considered to be equivalent before the law.[4] These modifications to the oath were originally introduced in order to accommodate those who feel uncomfortable swearing religious oaths, such as Quakers, as well as to accommodate the irreligious.[5] In United States v. Ward, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that certain other modifications of the oath were acceptable so long as they demonstrated "a moral or ethical sense of right and wrong".[6]

Oath (California):

You do solemnly state that the testimony you may give in the cause now pending before this court shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God.

References[edit]