What is a statutory declaration?
A statutory declaration allows a person to make a legal declaration under oath and in the presence of a lawyer. They are commonly used when an individual needs to satisfy a legal requirement by affirming the truth of something.
A common example of when a statutory declaration might be used is when an individual decides to change their name. They will legally declare that they renounce their old name and adopt a new one in a document that is witnessed by a lawyer.
Other examples of when a statutory declaration might be used are:
- Declaring one's identity, nationality, marital status, etc.
- Affirming that goods are quality and what they purport to be when exporting or importing
- Declaring the originality of an item during a patent application
- Company directors declaring solvency when going into voluntary liquidation
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Affidavits and oaths
A statutory declaration is often associated with making an oath or providing a sworn affidavit, although there are subtle differences. An oath is generally something which somebody will make verbally at court. An individual will be asked to give an oath or affirmation before giving evidence at court. This generally involves swearing on the religious book of that individual’s faith that all evidence they will provide to the court is true. If the individual does not have a particular faith they will generally ‘affirm’, meaning that they simply state that they solemnly swear to tell the whole truth when giving evidence.
An affidavit, on the other hand, is usually used when signing a written statement. For example, this will often happen during court proceedings when an individual is asked to make a witness statement. In this situation the statement may have to be sworn as an affidavit. This is essentially the same as making an oath but relevant to written evidence.
A statutory declaration is therefore similar in the sense that the individual signing it (it must be an individual though an individual can be a director of a company) is solemnly swearing the truth in regard to what is in the declaration.
Who can witness a statutory declaration?
Not anybody can administer a statutory declaration as it is an important legal document and must therefore be verified. It will usually have to be administered by a commissioner for oaths (usually a court officer), a solicitor, or a notary public.
As a statutory declaration needs to be completely truthful and accurate, if a solicitor is acting for you in a legal matter and requires you to get a statutory declaration they will usually have to send you to another solicitor to do so. This is because in order for the statutory declaration to be completely valid it cannot be certified by a solicitor acting for you, on grounds of being impartial.
How much will it cost?
Generally if you are asked to get a statutory declaration from a solicitor it is wise to book an appointment, although this may not be necessary (depending on the length and content of the declaration). Most solicitors will charge from £5 to £10 though there may be an additional fee if you also require certified copies.
If you falsely make a statement in your statutory declaration which you know at the time to be untrue then, as with affidavit and oaths, you may well be sent to prison. It is therefore important that a solicitor informs you of your duty when signing the statutory declaration.