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Affidavits and Statutory Declarations during Levels 3 and 4 of Covid-19 Lockdown
19 April, 2020 | Carolyn Ranson
One of the issues concerning lawyers over the lockdown period (alert levels 3 & 4) is the ability of people to swear or affirm affidavits and make statutory declarations. This is because the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957 does not allow for these to be sworn, affirmed or made via remote.
There are many reasons why affidavits and statutory declarations might be necessary during Covid-19 lockdown. While most hearings have been adjourned, proceedings (including for example applications for probate etc) can still be filed. Up until now, the Courts have, in some cases, accepted unsworn affidavits on the basis that the affidavits will be sworn and filed when they can be.
It has become clear that Alert Level 3 will maintain the same restrictions on face to face contact, and that it may be in place for some considerable time. In addition, it is likely that vulnerable people will still require to be isolated even after alert level 3 restrictions are lifted. The government has responded.
Temporary Law Change
From 17 April 2020, a temporary change to the Oaths and Declarations Act is in force as a result of the Epidemic Preparedness (Oaths and Declarations Act 1957) Immediate Modification Order 2020.
This order makes swearing or affirming an affidavit and making a statutory declaration during Alert Level 3 & 4 possible. The order will be in place until it is revoked or the Prime Minister’s Epidemic Preparedness (COVID-19) Notice 2020 expires.
How can oaths/affirmation and declarations be made under lockdown Alert Level 3 & 4?
The order modifies the Oaths and Declarations Act 1957 temporarily so that the affidavit can be sworn or affirmed, and the statutory declaration can be made over an audio (only if no access to video) or audio-visual communication method, such as messenger, skype or zoom – instead of in person.
Who can administer the oath or declaration?
The classes of people who are legally allowed to take or administer oaths, affidavits and statutory declarations (the administrator) remains unchanged, except that if a statute requires or authorises an entity to administer an oath or declaration then an authorised employee or officer of that entity may administer it.
Where does this apply?
The order applies to oaths and declarations made inside New Zealand, and outside New Zealand where that oath or declaration is required to be recognised within New Zealand.
What are the requirements
The administrator under the order must be satisfied the person swearing the oath or making the declaration signed the document during the audio or audio/visual call, and the person must send the administrator an electronic copy of the document for their signature as soon as possible.
Smith and Partners is able to administer affidavits and statutory declarations remotely. Unfortunately, during Alert Level 3 & 4, this service is only available to clients of the firm.