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Advocacy Section

Is there a lower age limit when a child may give evidence in civil proceedings?

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The Law Society’s Practice Advice Service looks as whether there is a lower age when a child may give evidence in civil proceedings. 

Is there a lower age limit when a child may give evidence in civil proceedings?

No. Section 96 of the Children Act 1989 states: 

  1. Subsection (2) applies where a child who is called as a witness in any civil proceedings does not, in the opinion of the court, understand the nature of an oath.
  2. The child’s evidence may be heard by the court if, in its opinion -

     a) he or she understands that it is their duty to speak the truth, and

     b) he or she has sufficient understanding to justify their evidence being heard. 

Thus, the evidence of a child who, in the opinion of the court, does not understand the nature of an oath, may be heard if he understands that it is his duty to speak the truth and has sufficient understanding to justify his evidence being heard. 

Although Section 96 does not expressly so provide, the clear implication is that in such circumstances the child will give evidence unsworn. 

This FAQ is compiled by the Law Society’s Practice Advice Service telephone 0207 320 5675. Comments relating to it should be sent to Mrs Anjali Mouelhi, Practice Advice Service Manager, The Law Society, 113 Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1PL. Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in the FAQ, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.

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