Support Apology Clause: make it easier for organisations to be compassionate

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Businesses and organisations should be able to apologise so people who have suffered can move on.  Call to clarify the ‘apology clause’ in the Compensation Act 2006.

We’ve all had times when we’ve felt someone should apologise, and they haven’t. Businesses are often stopped from saying sorry when everyone can see they should. 

A recent example is Faizah Shaheen, detained at Doncaster airport by Thomson Holidays for reading a book about Syria on their flight. She decided to sue them for damages.  “All I want is an apology for being treated this way”, she said as a result of her detention. 

An apology is often crucial in helping those that have suffered to move on and get past their traumas.  We all know how much a sincere apology can help.  It can build bridges.  Evidence shows it can heal wounds.  It can enable us to move on.  And we know that without an apology things can fester and hold us back.

We have seen in the Grenfell Tower aftermath how vital it is to show compassion in the wake of disaster.  It’s important for those who have suffered and those in positions of responsibility.  

Yet, at present, lawyers, insurers and other advisers too often block compassionate responses.

But the law says, in the Compensation Act 2006, that “an apology, an offer of treatment or other redress, shall not itself amount to an admission of negligence or breach of statutory duty”. 

Lawyers and insurers should put this law into practice more often.  Too often advisers tell their clients saying sorry will be taken to mean they were at fault, and that they or their insurers would have to pay damages.  Instead they say nothing.

In researching this topic we have learned that many lawyers have not heard of this law, or they think it is not clear enough for them to be confident encouraging clients to apologise.

The law needs to be made clearer so there are no excuses for not using it.  It should:

·  define what is meant by an apology

·  spell out the scope of matters which it relates to

·  set out whether an apology is deemed in legal terms to constitute an admission, or if it is simply not admissible as an admission of liability

·  explain whether an apology would render insurance contracts void

There is a great deal of evidence that apologies help people who have suffered to start rebuilding their lives.  Without one, too often, they blame themselves for what happened and continue to be damaged by it.

That is why we call on the Secretary of State for Justice to amend the Compensation Act 2006 to clarify the apology clause and to give lawyers and other advisers the confidence to recommend their clients do the right thing.

To avoid the danger of ‘hollow’ or meaningless apologies businesses should have to include a commitment to look at the circumstances behind the event, with a view to preventing it from happening again.  The recent Scottish Apology Act does this well.

Read the letter and please sign our petition.

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