25 October 2017
By Bryan Smyth
This week as part of our local business series I spoke with the Cork’s well known Commissioner for Oaths David O’Sullivan. I asked him what is the difference between a ‘Statutory Declaration’ and an ‘Affidavit’?
“Often times people needing the services of a Commissioner for Oaths will say they ‘just need a signature’, but a Commissioner for Oaths does not just autograph documents. A Commissioner for Oaths must perform certain tasks, the last of which is the signature, because the purpose if the signature is actually to confirm that the process was followed.
In the case of of an Affidavit or Statutory Declaration the a Commissioner for Oaths:
1) Confirms the ID of the person (who is known as the Apperear)
2) Ensures there are no blanks in the document
3) Administers the verbal oath or declaration to the signer
4) Completes the Jurat by writing in the date, geographic location, and other details required.
5) Signs, and ensures he can be identified if required
Depending on the circumstance there may be other task but for the purposes of this answer I am summarising.
What then is the difference then between an Affidavit and a Statutory Declaration?
An Affidavit is considered to be a higher level of document because it is sworn (or affirmed), whereas a Declaration is not.
An Affidavit tends to be for use in Court, whereas a Statutory Declaration tends to be used as part of a non-court administrative process, for example in a Land Registry process.
An affidavit is a legal document that sets out facts by someone who has personal knowledge of them. Think of an Affidavit as written court testimony. It reduces the need for people to give verbal evidence. Without Affidavits the Court system would be much slower because people would need to give all evidence verbally in Court.
In an Affidavit the person who is ‘speaking’ (called the ‘deponent’ in Ireland, or the ‘affiant’ in other legal systems) identifies themselves and their relationship to the matter or case, next they write out facts they know from first-person knowledge. An Affidavit must meet certain rules; for example it must have a certain introduction paragraph, the body then be must be divided into numbered paragraphs, and it have a certain closing paragraph.A person who has an Affidavit will sign it ‘before’ (meaning, in the presence of) a Commissioner for Oaths. The Deponent is swearing, or Affirming, that the content of their Affidavit is true.
2. Statutory Declaration
Normally an Act or Statutory Instrument (S.I) will specify that a Statutory Declaration is to be used, and a template will be given by whatever agency desires its completion.
As the contents will not be subject to the rules of evidence, the particular way Statutory Declaration is drafted is not as regimented as an Affidavit, however the person who is ‘speaking’ (the Declarant) must still ensure that the contents are true.
Either class of document may have attached documents. These are called Exhibits. The document will refer to Exhibits which should be labelled using the initials of the Deponent/Declarant followed by a number. Thus, Joe Bloggs would refer to Exhibit JB1, then JB2 and so on. However, many agencies who create forms label their desired Exhibits as A, B or X. Ultimately, when engaging with any agency the Deponent/ Declarant will want to follow their precedents (templates) as closely as possible.”
Do you have an Affidavit or Statutory Declaration?
David O’Sullivan, Commissioner for Oaths, Cork is available to sign all Affidavits and Statutory Declarations use in Ireland. He can be contacted at 0879004346 or www.CommissionerForOaths.ie