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The power of apologies: updating laws for organisational accountability

The power of apologies: updating laws for organisational accountability


The Ministry of Justice and Lord Bellamy KC have initiated a consultation to explore potential modifications to existing laws making it easier for organisations to apologise

Should legalities shift to facilitate sincere apologies? A governmental consultation proposes amendments for easier organisational apologies. The aim is to make it simpler for organisations to extend heartfelt apologies without bearing the burden of legal liability.

The current legal framework, established by the Compensation Act of 2006, allows entities to offer apologies without admitting legal fault. However, there remains a notable reluctance among organisations to utilise apologies effectively, leaving many victims of wrongdoing without the closure they seek. Concerns about potential legal implications often hinder genuine expressions of remorse.

The consultation particularly emphasises the necessity of facilitating apologies in cases of egregious offenses such as child sexual abuse. Recommendations from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) have highlighted the importance of apologies from institutions in providing acknowledgment and solace to survivors. Testimonies from survivors underscore the profound impact that a sincere apology can have, often surpassing the significance of monetary compensation.

"The place of apologies in the justice system is becoming increasingly important, and this Consultation will explore ways of strengthening this role, not least to enable victims to find closure and move on with their lives," remarked Justice Minister, Lord Bellamy.

The consultation follows a Private Members’ Bill introduced by John Howell MP to allow an apology to be given that is genuinely and sincerely meant without creating a legal liability. John Howell MP expressed his satisfaction with the progress, stating, "It should be the mark of both a mature democratic society, and, of its dispute resolution system, that an apology, whether made publicly or privately, can and should be allowed to be meaningful, and, helpful rather than simply a necessary yet tokenistic gesture."

It is hoped that more apologies at an early stage will resolve disputes much more quickly. The independent inquiry also found that in the clinical negligence sphere especially, sincere, unreserved, and meaningful apologies can avoid litigation altogether – sparing victims the further protracted trauma of a lengthy court battle.

In essence, the proposed changes represent a progressive step towards fostering a culture of accountability and reconciliation within organisations. By affording greater flexibility in extending apologies, the legal system can play a pivotal role in facilitating healing and closure for victims of wrongdoing, ultimately promoting a more just and compassionate society.