Abuse Law – Apologies

In this area of law, survivors of abuse often voice that a genuine and direct apology and acknowledgement from the institution is an important part of their healing process. In civil and redress claims, institutions are, in fact, able to offer to survivors an apology for the abuse, including an acknowledgement of responsibility for the abuse.  

In 2015 the Royal Commission stressed the importance that any apology made by an institution needs to genuinely engage with the survivor and, most importantly, acknowledge responsibility for the abuse and explain the steps taken by the institution (or steps that the institution will take) to protect and prevent abuse occurring in the future.  

New South Wales

Pursuant to Part 10 of the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW), institutions can provide these apologies without the apology being considered an admission of fault or liability in relation to the civil or redress claim.  

Section 69 of the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) specifically provides that an apology from an institution: 

(1) (a) does not constitute an admission of fault or liability in a matter; 

(1) (b) is not relevant to the determination of fault or liability in a matter; and 

(2) evidence of the apology is not admissible in civil proceedings as evidence of fault or liability.  

Other Jurisdictions

Much like Part 10 of the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW), protection for institutions to provide ‘full’ apologies to survivors without the apology being considered an admission of fault or liability is also afforded in the following jurisdictions:  

  • Queensland (pursuant to Part 1A of the Civil Liability Act 2003 (Qld));  
  • Australian Capital Territory (pursuant to Part 2.3 of the Civil Law (Wrongs) Act 2002 (ACT)); and  
  • South Australia (pursuant to Part 9, Division 12 of the Civil Liability Act 1936 (SA)).  

 

On the contrary, the following jurisdictions only allow for institutions to provide ‘simple’ apologies to survivors:  

  • Victoria; 
  • Tasmania; 
  • Western Australia; and 
  • Northern Territory.  

A simple apology is one that only provides an expression of sympathy or regret and does not contain an acknowledgement of fault or responsibility. If an apology provided by an institution in these jurisdictions contains an acknowledgement of fault or responsibility, this could potentially be used as an admission of fault or liability in a civil proceeding. As such, institutions are more restrictive in providing apologies to survivors in these particular jurisdictions.  

A final note to survivors

It can easily, and understandably, become confusing for survivors in their civil claims if they are provided with an apology from the institution (i.e., the respondent in their civil claim), however, fault and/or liability is being denied or contested by the institution. It is important for survivors to keep in mind that whilst an institution can provide an apology, it is viewed as completely separate to the survivor’s civil claim for damages.   

We are specialist abuse lawyers and can help you receive acknowledgement, meaningful apology and financial resolution from those institutions and systems of power that failed to protect you from harm. If you would like advice in relation to a childhood or adult sexual, physical and/or psychological/emotional abuse claim in any jurisdiction in Australia, please reach out to the author, Emily Wright, at Littles Lawyers today. 

Further Abuse Law information and case law updates written by our Emily Wright can be found on our website.  

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