Sorry seems to be the hardest word…

On 8 April 2024, the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) launched a review aimed at reforming the Law of Apologies in Civil proceedings in England and Wales.

The law as it stands is contained in section 2 of the Compensation Act 2006, which encourages Defendants not to be deterred from making an apology, on the basis that this would be seen as an admission of liability. It provides:

“ 2. Apologies, offers of treatment or other redress

An apology, an offer of treatment or other redress, shall not of itself amount to an admission of negligence or breach of statutory duty.”

Despite the above, parties are (somewhat understandably) nervous to offer up an apology, on the basis that liability will be taken to be admitted and the consequences that will flow from there.

The commission is welcoming evidence on how often apologies are made and how widely parties rely upon section 2. It is noted that there is no significant case law in this area.

The issue first went before Parliament in December 2020, when John Howell MP proposed that, “A fresh apologies Act would be a clear statement from Westminster and a simple legal mechanism to help to improve our country’s conversations. It could incentivise disputing parties to make apologies whether in the direct aftermath of an accident, mistake or other dispute, or further down the line, should the dispute escalate, with a view to achieving a more amicable resolution.”

It remains to be seen whether this area of law will undergo major reform, but it does potentially open-up routes to Alternative Dispute Resolution, by assisting the parties to apologise without facing the consequences.

The closing date for responses is 3 June 2024.

Those wishing to participate in the consultation are to write to:

Zalwa Alasow
Ministry of Justice
Post Point 5.25
102 Petty France




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