Jewish juror denied Old Testament to swear on

Juror told there was no Old Testament for oath


Jo Gattenberg: forced to make an affirmation at Southwark court

Jo Gattenberg: forced to make an affirmation at Southwark court

A civil servant has spoken of her "shock" after finding one of the largest courts in the country did not provide a copy of the Old Testament on which she could swear an oath.

Jo Gattenberg, 41, from Archway, North London, had to make an affirmation, the non-religious option, after her request for the Old Testament was declined at Southwark Crown Court last week.

The oath is taken by members of the jury and anyone taking the stand in a British court.

The Oaths Act 1978 states: "The person taking the oath shall hold the New Testament, or, in the case of a Jew, the Old Testament, in his uplifted hand, and shall say or repeat after the officer administering the oath the words 'I swear by Almighty God that …', followed by the words of the oath prescribed by law."

Ms Gattenberg, who works for Camden Council, and was to try an assault case, said: "I was given the option of swearing on the New Testament or the Quran, and when I asked for a Jewish option the usher said 'no'. She didn't know what it was and seemed confused. It was important for me to be able to swear on the Old Testament, and I found it offensive that I couldn't.

"I can't have been the only Jewish person to go through that court and I'm really shocked they didn't have one. We're talking about the three main religions and one isn't catered for."

A Courts Service spokeswoman said: "We are sorry that on this occasion a juror was dissatisfied with the service they received at court. HMCS makes every effort to accommodate the religious practices of all jurors.

"Copies of the Old Testament are available for the purposes of taking the oath, and court staff have been reminded of the need to ensure the juror's choice of holy book is available before they go into court."

    Last updated: 1:00pm, June 10 2010