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Evidence for Foreign Courts

Sometimes a court case is on the go elsewhere in the world and evidence is needed from a person in South Africa. The Foreign Courts Evidence Act 19621 is designed to facilitate this, but it only applies in respect of civil proceedings.

What happens is the High Court grants an order for the examination2 of such a witness before a particular, identified person. The procedure then gets treated as if it were the taking of evidence before the High Court – as in a normal trial.

  1. Any person who, accordingly, is summoned to appear and give evidence, or produce a book, document or thing, commits an offence if he fails to do so.3

  2. It is an offence, further, not to remain in attendance until excused by the person appointed to hear the evidence.4

  3. It is also an offence:5
    • to refuse to be sworn, or to make an affirmation as a witness;
    • if you fail to answer questions fully and satisfactorily; and
    • if you fail to produce the book, document or thing specified in the subpoena.
  4. It is, of course, also an offence to give evidence which is false.6
  1. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 75 of 1996. 

  2. This just means questioning and cross questioning – ‘I put it to you…’ 

  3. Section 6(1). 

  4. Section 6(1). 

  5. Section 6(1). 

  6. Section 6(2).