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What is a Deposition?

Updated on January 23, 2010

Deposition, in English law, is the written testimony of a witness in a judicial proceeding. Depositions before a magistrate are the sworn statements of the witnesses in a criminal prosecution given at the proceedings at which the accused is committed for trial. The statements are committed to writing by the magistrate's clerk, and read over and signed by the witness making them and by the magistrate. Such depositions are not evidence at the trial of the accused, but where a witness is dead or too ill to travel his deposition will be admitted into evidence. The accused is given an opportunity of cross-examining the deponent at the committal proceedings when the deposition is taken. This time-consuming procedure was invariable at committal proceedings before 1967. But the Criminal Justice Act 1967 introduced a short form of committal which is now commonly used. In either the old or the new form of committal proceedings, the 1967 act allows depositions to be in the form of sworn statements made before the proceedings if none of the parties objects.

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