'Destitute of the Knowledge of God': Maori Testimony before the New Zealand Courts in the Early Crown Colony Period

Publisher:
ANU E-Press
Publication Type:
Chapter
Citation:
Past Law, Present Histories, 2012, 1, pp. 39 - 57
Issue Date:
2012-01
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was to allow colonial legislatures to pass acts or ordinances to allow their indigenous inhabitants to give unsworn testimony before the courts. Unsworn testimony was testimony given by those who were not able to take the oath. At common law the rule was that evidence could only be given on oath, rendering those devoid of religious belief incompetent to testify. In British colonies, therefore, this rule resulted in most of the indigenous inhabitants being unable to give evidence before English courts. This was particularly problematic in the Australian colonies. The imperial Act of 1843 was the outcome of various ine"ectual attempts to allow for such evidence by way of local act or ordinance, particularly in New South Wales and, more latterly, Western Australia. While some attention has been paid to the politics and processes of law reform concerning unsworn testimony in empire, and the ways in which such reforms formed part of broader disputes about the shape of colonial governments,2 these discussions have almost entirely revolved around the Australian colonies.3 New Zealand has received comparatively little attention.
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