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Oath On The Stand (Read 10072 times)
gaztus
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Oath On The Stand
Mar 26th, 2007 at 1:53am
 
I am a taxi driver and was having a discussion with a law student who didn't know the answer, hopefully someone can help.

When you take your oath on the stand "Do you promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" or whatever the equivalent is in court, what if you answered No?  I won't tell the truth.  Do you have the right?  Would you be held in contempt of court and put in jail?
I don't have any impending court cases looming, just one of many discussion with my passengers.

Thanks in advance.   Wink
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petrocelli
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Re: Oath On The Stand
Reply #1 - Mar 26th, 2007 at 10:51am
 
You have the right to say whatever the heck you want.

Practically, however, if you were unable to give an asurance to the court that your evidence would be truthful, then it is extremely unlikely that anyone would want to take further evidence from you. It would strike both at the heart of the credibility of you as a witness, and the reliability of your evidence.

Conversely, as you are probably aware, if you were sworn in and subsequently deliberately told a lie, then you would have committed the offence of perjury.

As for contempt of court, if you get the wrong Sheriff on a bad day, who can say? The obvious question which arises is that if you have no intention of giving evidence to assist the court, then why be a witness in the first place? If I were a Sheriff and had allocated a court day to hear a witness who subsequently turned up and refused to take an oath, I certainly wouldn't be a happy bunny, put it that way. Whether it was the witness or the person leading the evidence who incurred the wrath would probably depend on the circumstances.
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gaztus
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Re: Oath On The Stand
Reply #2 - Mar 26th, 2007 at 2:36pm
 
Thanks,

the question was more if you were being forced by the crown to be a witness for the prosecution against someone on the defence that you knew personally and didn't want to give evidance.
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petrocelli
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Re: Oath On The Stand
Reply #3 - Mar 27th, 2007 at 12:50pm
 
The above would still hold true.

The Crown have discretion over which witnesses they will call, and will only call witnesses whose statements have been served on the defence and upon whom they intend to rely for oral evidence.

If your statement said "So-and-so is my best mate, and I'm not saying anything", then the Crown would hardly be likely to call you as a witness in the first place.
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zurich_allan
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Re: Oath On The Stand
Reply #4 - Mar 28th, 2007 at 10:07am
 
Yup, all of course true. With regard contempt - yes technically you could be held in contempt (for obstructing court procedure & justice, and wasting court time), although it's unlikely you'd be called if you had made it clear that you weren't that willing to cooperate. The only people who have an automatic legal right not to be called as a witness if they object are the spouse of the accused in a criminal trial. Contempt is an interesting subject - I have an article due to be published in the June issue of JLSS about it, and it is also the subject of my Phd research.
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mr_physical
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Re: Oath On The Stand
Reply #5 - Apr 23rd, 2007 at 10:53pm
 
The Criminal Procedure (Scotland) Act 1995 section 155 (1) provides "If a witness in a summary prosecution -
(a) wifully fails to attend after being duly cited; or
(b) unlawfully refuises to be sworn; or
(c) after the oath has been administered to him refuses to answer any question which the court may allow; or
(d) prevaricates in his evidence,
he shall be deemed to be guilty of contempt of court and be liable to be summarily punished forthwith for such contempt of court by a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale [currently 1,000] or by imrisonment not exceeding 21 days."
The Crown very often calls unwilling witnesses.  As a matter of public policy it is not acceptable for justice to be left to the whim of witnesses.
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