Embracing apologies: A call for law reform | Bolt Burdon Kemp Embracing apologies: A call for law reform | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Embracing apologies: A call for law reform

The law on apologies in civil cases could soon be reformed offering a vital step forward for survivors of negligence, abuse or personal injury.

The Government has launched a consultation into Section 2 of the Compensation Act 2006 and Bolt Burdon Kemp is advocating change, having seen firsthand the effect an apology can have on trauma recovery.

The law currently allows public institutions to provide an apology without admitting liability in civil proceedings, but defendants remain very averse to offering them.

Almost two decades on from the introduction of the Act, there is little empirical evidence indicating it has prompted businesses to utilise apologies more frequently as a means of reparations.

Parties are still reluctant to offer apologies fearing they will admit liability or weaken their defence.

This is unfortunate as it has left numerous victims lacking adequate closure and feeling unable to progress with their lives.

We all recognise the value of an apology. A sincere apology holds significant importance in aiding those who have endured suffering to overcome their traumas and move forward.

We are well aware of the profound impact a genuine apology can have—it has the power to reconcile damaged relationships, heal psychological wounds, and facilitate the healing process.

A failure to receive an apology can escalate feelings of anger for victims and is objectively insulting.

This proposed reform by the Ministry of Justice is said to remove the barriers to apologising, whether real or perceived, and broaden the scope of the law to allow more institutions to offer apologies.

The consultation follows the recommendation by the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse that apologies should be offered by institutions and public bodies who are in positions of vicarious liability for abuse.

Currently, the Compensation Act only addresses apologies in relation to negligence or breach of statutory duty and does not state if vicarious liability is also in scope, which is now the main basis on which child sexual abuse claims are brought.

The eight-week consultation on reforming the law draws to a close on June 3rd.

At Bolt Burdon Kemp, we do not believe there is any doubt that a clarification and expansion of the law in this area would be useful.

We welcome a reform of the law that facilitates apologies and offers of treatment or other redress to victims and survivors of abuse by institutions that may be vicariously liable for the actions or omissions of other persons.

Survivors have repeatedly emphasised the value of receiving sincere and meaningful apologies from institutions that have been responsible for their abuse and for some survivors, this remains just as important as compensation.

The place of apologies in the justice system is crucial and we hope the law in this area will strengthen to allow the effective practice of such.

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