What is a Statutory Declaration?17 December 2023 in Criminal Law
A statutory declaration – often called a “stat dec” – is a written statement of fact that is made voluntarily by a person who has personal knowledge of the facts being declared. It is a legal document that carries the same weight as evidence given under oath. The declaration must be made in the presence of an authorised witness, who will verify the identity of the declarant and sign the declaration as a witness.
When is a statutory declaration used?
Stat decs are commonly used in a variety of legal and administrative contexts. They can be used to support applications for benefits, to provide evidence of a change of name or to verify the completion of certain tasks. They can also be used to provide evidence in court proceedings, although they are not as powerful as evidence given under oath.
Making a statutory declaration
To make a stat dec, the declarant must:
- Write out their statement of fact clearly and concisely.
- Sign the declaration in the presence of an authorized witness. The witness must be over 18 years of age, not related to the declarant, and not have a vested interest in the matter.
- The witness must then sign and date the declaration, and provide their name, occupation, and address.
- The declaration must be made on a form that meets the requirements of the Statutory Declarations Act 1959 (Cth).
- The declarant must keep a copy of the declaration for their records.
An authorised witness is someone who is authorised by law to witness stat decs. An authorised witness may be:
- A Justice of the Peace (JP)
- A solicitor or barrister
- A notary public
- A police officer
- A pharmacist
- A medical practitioner
- A bank officer
It is important to note that authorised witnesses may have specific requirements regarding their occupation or qualifications. For example, a pharmacist can only witness stat decs that relate to the administration of medicines.
Validity of statutory declarations
A stat dec is a legal document and should be treated with the same level of care as any other legal document. Any false or misleading statements made in a statutory declaration may result in criminal charges. Therefore, it is important to ensure that the statement made in a statutory declaration is true and accurate.
Penalties for false statutory declarations
Making a false stat dec is a serious offence that carries significant penalties. Pursuant to Section 25 of the Oaths Act 1900 (NSW), anyone who makes a false stat dec is guilty of an offence and can be sentenced up to 5 years in prison. This penalty applies regardless of whether the false declaration was made intentionally or unintentionally.
Additionally, under Section 327 the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW), anyone who intentionally makes a false declaration is guilty of perjury, which is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Perjury is considered a more serious offence than making a false stat dec because it involves giving false evidence in a court of law.
It is important to note that the penalties for making a false stat dec may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case. For example, if the false declaration was made in order to obtain a benefit or advantage, such as a financial benefit, the penalties may be more severe.
How can BSM help?
If you have been accused of making a false statutory declaration, it is important to seek the advice and assistance of a criminal lawyer. Our experienced lawyers at Brander Smith McKnight can help you understand the charges against you and the potential penalties you face and can work to develop a strong defence strategy on your behalf.
Call us to arrange a free 20 minute no obligation consultation that includes case evaluation and cost estimate.