Hong Kong has moved a significant step closer towards a “sorry law”. If passed, it will be the first Asian jurisdiction to enact such laws. In November 2016, after two rounds of public consultation, the Department of Justice published the “Enactment of Apology Legislation in Hong Kong: Final Report & Recommendations” and the Apology Bill. On 8 February 2017, the Bill will be reviewed by the Legislative Council. The aim is to encourage apologies with a view to achieving early resolution or settlement of disputes but at the same time removing legal disincentives to apologise. The Bill lays down the legal consequences of making an apology in civil, disciplinary and regulatory proceedings. It specifically excludes criminal proceedings.

The key provisions are:

  • An apology may be oral, written or by way of conduct. It will not be deemed to be an admission of fault or liability.
  • An apology is not admissible in proceedings to determine fault or liability, save in excepted circumstances.
  • In the context of insurance policies, there is an express provision that an apology does not render void or affect any insurance cover.
  • It is not possible to contract out of the provisions once in force.
  • For the purposes of limitation, an apology does not constitute an acknowledgement. Accordingly, it does not permit a fresh accrual of action to arise in respect to matters involving the recovery of land.

Only time will tell whether an early apology will in fact improve the prospects of earlier and more amicable settlement of disputes, but speedy resolution and reduced costs will be beneficial for all those involved, including insurers.

Research conducted by Tamara Liu, Trainee Solicitor, Hong Kon