On 13 July 2017, the Apology Bill was passed into law by the Legislative Council. The apology legislation seeks to promote and encourage the making of apologies with a view to preventing the escalation of disputes and facilitating their amicable resolution.
Under the apology legislation, an apology made by a person in applicable proceedings in connection with a matter will not constitute an express or implied admission of the person’s fault or liability and it must not be taken into account in determining fault, liability of any other issue in connection with the matter to the prejudice of the person. In relation to contract of insurance or indemnity, an apology does not void or otherwise affect any insurance cover or compensation, regardless of when the contract of insurance or indemnity was entered into. Although the apology legislation provided that evidence of apology is inadmissible in applicable proceedings, a decision maker may exercise discretion to admit a statement of fact contained in the apology as evidence in the proceedings if he considers just and equitable in all the circumstances. “Apology” is given a broad definition under the apology legislation. It is defined to mean an expression of a person’s regret, sympathy or benevolence in connection with a matter and it includes an expression that the person is sorry about the matter. The apology also includes any part of the expression that is an expressed or implied admission of the person’s fault or a statement of fact in connection with the matter. Such expression may be oral, written or by conduct.
The apology legislation will apply to an apology made on or after the commencement date of the legislation regardless of whether the matter or the applicable proceeding began before, on or after that date. The applicable proceedings include: judicial, arbitral, administrative, disciplinary and regulatory proceedings. Criminal proceedings or proceedings conducted under the Commissions of Inquiry Ordinance (Cap.86), Control of Obscene and Indecent Articles Ordinance (Cap. 390), or Coroners Ordinance (Cap. 504) are not “applicable proceedings”. Furthermore, the apology legislation does not apply to (a) an apology made in a document filed or submitted in applicable proceedings (b) an apology made in a testimony, submission or similar oral statement given at a hearing of applicable proceedings; or (c) an apology adduced as evidence in applicable proceedings by, or with the consent of, the person who made it.