It has been announced by the Hong Kong Government that the Apology Bill will be tabled at the Legislative Council in February 2017. This means that the Government is now seriously considering the implementation of such legislation.
An apology is an alternate dispute resolution mechanism, usually applying to a dispute where one party feels that it has been wronged by another. In such situations, an apology may help to prevent the escalation of disputes and, instead, facilitate resolution. Parties are traditionally advised not to make an apology, as it is currently an admissible piece of evidence in civil proceedings.
However, the proposed legislation aims to promote the making of apologies in order to facilitate the amicable resolution of disputes. This is achieved by providing that an apology does not constitute an admission of fault or liability and that it is inadmissible as evidence detrimental to the apology maker. Moreover, an apology will not affect any insurance coverage available to the apology maker.
After two rounds of public consultation, the Steering Committee on Mediation recommended the formulation of the Apology Bill. The legislative proposal was supported by the public and by the Legislative Council’s Panel on Administration of Justice & Legal Services.
This kind of apology legislation has been in force in other common law jurisdictions such as Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, but was only suggested in Hong Kong in 2010. The Department of Justice stated that Hong Kong would be the first Asian jurisdiction to implement apology legislation. It is considered that this will help to enhance Hong Kong’s standing as a dispute resolution centre, especially in the context of mediation.