HK passes ‘sorry law’ to prevent conflicts
Hong Kong’s legislature passed the “sorry law” bill on Thursday which will mean that apologizing for something serious will not be taken as an admission of guilt or as a legal liability.
The passing of the Apology Bill makes Hong Kong the first jurisdiction in Asia to have such a law.
The government’s legal chief Rimsky Yuen Kwokkeung said the move would enhance Hong Kong’s status as the center for dispute resolution and legal services in the Asia Pacific region.
The Apology Ordinance, proposed by the government’s Steering Committee on Mediation last year, is expected to encourage people to make apologies for mistakes, which will prevent disputes from escalating and encourage parties involved in conflict to seek mediation.
In previous cases, there was a possibility that an apology could be used as evidence in court to determine legal liability. This resulted in people’s reluctance to make apologies, especially in cases concerning medical negligence and other mistakes that led to injuries or death as they feared involvement in law suits or failed insurance claims.
The government first started to consider bringing in such legislation after the 2012 Lamma ferry collision. At the time, the former Marine Department chief Francis Liu Hon-por took eight months to give an apology to the public. Liu said this was because he needed to take legal advice.
Such an attitude was not conducive to preventing the escalation of disputes or their amicable resolution, the government said in a Legislative Council document. “On the contrary, anxiety and anger on the part of victims or their families might increase if there is no sign of regret or expressions of sorrow from the opposite party,” it stressed.
Apology laws are already in place in common law jurisdictions. At present, apology legislation exists in over 30 US states, most provinces and territories of Canada. Australia and Scotland also have such laws.