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Passage of the Apologies (Scotland) Bill

Published: 19 Jan 2016 16:45
Part of:
Law and order

Barrier to victims receiving an apology removed.

Victims will find it easier to receive an apology for a wrong they have suffered following the passage of a new law in the Scottish Parliament.

The Apologies (Scotland) Bill removes a legal barrier to individuals and organisations apologising for a mistake, by preventing the apology being used as evidence of liability in most civil legal proceedings.

The Bill – a Member's Bill introduced by Margaret Mitchell, MSP – is aimed at promoting a social and cultural change in attitudes to the giving of apologies.

The potential impact on survivors of historic child abuse has been an integral part of the Bill's development and ensuring that any claims for damages they bring will not be disadvantaged by the new law has been a key concern.

Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs, Paul Wheelhouse, said:

"This Bill sends an important message about the value of apologies in our society and with it we want to change attitudes in Scotland.

"We all know mistakes happen, that is a fact of life and indeed some actions taken can have serious, even tragic consequences. It is how we deal with such situations that makes the difference, and a sincere apology can show empathy and restore damaged relationships. While it cannot undo what has already been done, a sincere and effective apology can provide some redress for anyone who has been wronged and this can provide significant comfort to those affected or their loved ones.

"The Bill also creates a climate where survivors of historic child abuse can receive acknowledgement and recognition through an apology, without being disadvantaged when pursuing claims for civil damages.

"I am grateful to Margaret Mitchell for raising this issue and my team and I have worked constructively with Ms Mitchell to shape it to be one that can deliver for the people of Scotland. We have always agreed on the value of apologies to those who have been wronged and the importance of promoting a culture change where apologies are readily and sincerely given."

Notes to editors

The Bill makes provisions for the effect of an apology in certain civil legal proceedings, following similar legislation adopted in certain other common law jurisdictions, primarily the USA, Canada and Australia.

The definition of 'apology' in the Bill is: "any statement made by or on behalf of a person which indicates that the person is sorry about, or regrets, an act, omission or outcome and includes any part of the statement which contains an undertaking to look at the circumstances giving rise to the act, omission or outcome with a view to preventing a recurrence."

The Bill applies to all civil legal proceedings, except inquiries under the Inquiries Act 2005, Fatal Accident Inquiries, proceedings under the Children's Hearings (Scotland) Act 2011, defamation proceedings, and apologies made in accordance with the duty of candour procedure set out in Part 2 of the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Act 2016. Criminal proceedings are not covered (section 2).