Rhys Thompson, a solicitor in the firm’s Commercial Dispute Resolution Department in Cardiff, shares his thoughts and experiences of swearing statutory declarations generally and, due to current workplace restrictions, virtually.
The swearing of a statutory declaration has been a mainstay of English and Welsh law since 1835. In fact, it was one of my first experiences when on work experience at a law firm as a mere 16-year old.
A statutory declaration is just that – it is a written statement pursuant to statute (the aptly named Statutory Declarations Act 1835) declaring and affirming that something is true to the best of the knowledge of the person making the declaration.
Statutory declarations are used in personal matters and corporate matters alike. One of the most common reasons for using a statutory declaration is in situations around business insolvency and liquidation. For example, a company’s director will swear statutory declarations when placing the company into administration. Alternatively, a company’s shareholders will swear a statutory declaration when placing the company into members voluntary liquidation.
So, how does one swear a statutory declaration? It is usually a very straight-forward process. Someone from firm A will take their client(s) to firm B where the client(s) will sign and swear the statutory declaration in front of an independent solicitor. Once signed, the solicitor will ask the client(s) to make the oral declaration of truthfulness and accuracy (the swearing part) and will then complete the statutory declaration to confirm that it was duly witnessed by them. The independent solicitor will also be paid a small fee for their troubles.
However, in today’s age of social distancing and remote working, is it still possible to swear a statutory declaration before an independent solicitor?
Fortunately, due to modern technology, the answer to that is yes. In fact, the Commercial Dispute Resolution department in Cardiff has recently completed its first virtual swearing.
The department was faced with swearing a statutory declaration by two company shareholders who were placing two of their subsidiary companies into members’ voluntary liquidation.
However, not only were the shareholders not sitting across the table from me, they were in completely different areas of the country from each other – another ‘minor’ hurdle to overcome. Fortunately, after speaking with their representative, it was agreed that they were each sign an identical counterpart of the documents.
Before the virtual meeting, each shareholder was provided with a copy of the documents to be signed and were asked to print off copies. I, as the solicitor, witnessing was also provided with copies for reference.
At the agreed time, all parties joined a conference call via Skype where the shareholders confirmed they had copies of the documents and were happy with the content.
The shareholders then:
- Held up the documents, in turn, to the camera to allow me to inspect them to make sure they were the correct documents and that they were unsigned;
- They then proceeded to sign the statutory declarations;
- The declarations were then dated and the addresses where the shareholders were swearing the declarations were added (this can be done by the person swearing or by the solicitor witnessing);
- The documents were then shown to me to make sure the signatures were in the correct places and that the shareholders had completed all relevant parts correctly;
- The documents were then scanned and e-mailed to the witnessing solicitor.
- Printed off the documents;
- In turn, showed the counterpart to the relevant shareholder and asked them to confirm that I had the correct document that they had signed;
- Once confirmed, I asked for the shareholder to repeat after them the oral declaration of truthfulness and accuracy; and
- I signed and completed the declaration as the witness.
The declarations were then e-mailed to the shareholders and their representatives and the originals forwarded to the representatives via post.
What does this mean for you?
We appreciate that times are tough at the moment. However, if you find yourself in need of swearing a statutory declaration, particularly when you need to act urgently in relation to the solvency of your business, do not hold off swearing until it is too late. Act fast, act right.
If you have any queries about statutory declarations, do not hesitate to get in contact with our Commercial Dispute Resolution department who will be able to assist you further.