Religious Confession Privilege and the Common Law


Does religious confession privilege exist at common law? Most evidence law texts answer ‘no’. This analysis shows that most of the cases relied upon for the ‘no religious confession privilege conclusion’ are not authority for that conclusion. The origin of the privilege in the canon law in the first millennium AD is traced and its reception into common law is documented. Proof that religious confession privilege continues unbroken at common law through to the present day is of obvious importance in jurisdictions where there is no relevant statute. A correct understanding of the common law extant before statutes were passed will influence whether those statutes are broadly or narrowly interpreted. The book also brings the reader up to date on the state of religious confession privilege in the United States, Canada, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
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Biographical Note

A. Keith Thompson, LLB (Hons) (1981); M Jur (1993), University of Auckland, PhD (2007) in Law, Murdoch University, worked as Area Legal Counsel in the Pacific for the LDS Church from 1991 until 2009 following a career in commercial law as a partner in an Auckland law firm. He now works as Area Legal Counsel for the LDS Church for Africa from offices in Ghana.

Table of contents

Excerpt of the Table of Contents:
Abstract;Table of Cases;Table of Statutes; Preface; Introduction;
Chapter One: Review of Religious Confession Privilege in Early Evidence Texts
Chapter Two: Religious Confession Privilege in Historical Context
Chapter Three: Religious Confession and Privilege in Canon Law
Chapter Four: Religious Confession Privilege at Common Law From the Seventeenth to the Twentieth Century
Chapter Five: Religious Communications Privilege at Common Law
Chapter Six: Theories About the Extinction of Religious Confession Privilege
Chapter Seven: Religious Confession Privilege at Common Law in Australia
Chapter Eight: Religious Confession Privilege at Common Law in the United Kingdom and Ireland
Chapter Nine: Religion Confession Privilege in the United States
Chapter Ten: Religious Confession Privilege in Canada and New Zealand
Chapter Eleven: Religious Confession Privilege in South Africa
Chapter Twelve: Policy – Should There Be a Religious Confession Privilege?
Conclusion; Bibliography.


All those interested in the history and contemporary development of privilege in common law and those interested in identifying the residue of religious privilege that remains in common law.


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