Pagan oaths in Court

Many Pagans wish to use a Pagan Oath when giving evidence in Court or serving on a jury.

The Police Pagan Association have provided a very helpful guide to this topic on their website, also explained in an article by Sergeant Andrew Pardy in the most recent Pagan Dawn 195 for Beltane 2015.

A form of words has been approved by HM Courts and Tribunals Service since 2006 as follows:

"I swear, by all that I hold sacred ..."

Some Pagans may not wish to swear oaths at all, or only in a religious context, and may prefer to affirm:

"I do solemnly, sincerely and truly declare and affirm ..."

Affirmation is a legal right: all you need to do is tell the usher in court that you wish to do so.

To use the Pagan Oath, it is advisable to inform the usher or Court staff before you are called to the witness box, to give them an opportunity to locate the approved cue card. There is no requirement to swear on a book, and the law allows all oaths to be sworn with an uplifted right hand.

If you wish to swear on a non-standard book you have brought it is at the discretion of the Court, so it is also advisable to discuss this with the usher of other Court staff before being called. This is, broadly speaking, to prevent any later challenges to the validity of the oath and the evidence taken on it based on the the use of a book not actually held sacred by the witness.

The use of the Pagan Oath, as with other alternative religious oaths, is not an absolute right.

The Oaths Act 1978 states in Section 1 that in the case of a person who is neither a Christian nor a Jew, the oath shall be administered in any lawful manner.

Section 5 of the Act continues (slightly edited for clarity):

(5.1) Any person who objects to being sworn shall be permitted to make his solemn affirmation instead of taking an oath.

(5.2) this shall apply in relation to a person to whom it is not reasonably practicable without inconvenience or delay to administer an oath in the manner appropriate to his religious belief as it applies in relation to a person objecting to be sworn.

(5.3) A person who may be permitted under the section above to make his solemn affirmation may also be required to do so.

Unfortunately, although this was to prevent witnesses coming with unusual religious requirements which would prevent them from giving evidence on oath or provide them with a means to avoid doing so, in practice it means that in the unlikely event that Court staff cannot find a copy of the Pagan Oath then you may be required to affirm.

Background information

Oaths Act 1978

Guidance from the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary

The Equal Treatment Bench Book contains separate pieces of guidance on equality and diversity brought together for ease of reading. It contains a useful section on oaths for those interested, but there is only one reference to Paganism in the current November 2013 edition:

Section 10.2 on page 149 - "Some practise religious observances outside the boundaries of traditional world religions (e.g. pagans)".

As there are sections covering other religions, it is hoped that Paganism will be included in the next edition.

The Guide to Judicial Conduct states in section 4.2 on page 13 that the judge should ensure that no one in court is exposed to any display of bias or prejudice on grounds including religion.