Hong Kong Lawyer

October 2017

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給《香港律師》的信 Letter to Hong Kong Lawyer 14 www.hk-lawyer.org •  October 2017 By David Ravenscroft David Ravenscroft & Co. 作者 李榮覺 李榮覺律師行 Mediation Perspective on the Apology Bill In the August issue of Hong Kong Lawyer, Damien Laracy and Fontaine Lai explored the effect and scope of the recently enacted Apology Bill in an interesting insight. The Bill's scheme and intent is "to promote and encourage the making of apologies with a view to preventing the escalation of disputes and facilitating their amicable resolution". Of particular interest is how the legislation has been drafted to ensure that an apology does not amount to an admission of liability or fault. The Ordinance defines an apology widely, and includes apologies by conduct and implied admission, but there are specific exclusions relating to court filings. Except for the area of defamation, where in a case without any prospect of a successful defence, an immediate apology may be made to limit damages, apologies play little part in litigation. And, of course, a court cannot order a party to make an apology. Rather, an apology is non-monetary (or even emotional) compensation and may be made as part of a mediation settlement. Some may regard an apology as simply a way of reducing damages and if that is the view of the recipient of the apology it may have no practical effect. It might be timely to remind those who advise in this field of the required features of an apology according to classic mediation theory. This holds that an apology should be (i) sincere, (ii) voluntary, (iii) in language acceptable to the addressee, (iv) made at an appropriate time, and (v) specific. With regard to timing, an apology made at an early stage and unconditionally is perhaps more likely to carry a settlement-inducing impact than one made during the calculations of a negotiation. Carl Schneider in an article in Mediation Quarterly has stressed that for an apology to be effective it should not be accompanied by excuses or explanations or have conditions attached. Roger Fisher, co-author of the well-known Getting to Yes, added his own thoughts on the subject in his book Beyond Reason co-written with Daniel Shapiro. Fisher and Shapiro state that apologies should (i) recognise the emotional impact, (ii) express regret, and (iii) commit not to repeat. All this suggests that an apology has to be carefully worded. It is asking a lot, and may not be practical, to include this in a simple and sometimes necessarily brief apology. It can be argued that the word "sorry" has its own power and removes the brazen element of what is complained of. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that a grudging apology or one that is clearly tactical made solely with a view to reducing damages may not have the desired effect. 從調解角度探究《道歉條例草案》 在8月份的《香港律師》,戴偉誠及黎庭瑋定準方向,探索 新近制定的《道歉條例草案》(「《草案》」)的影響及範 疇,見解深刻,饒有趣味。《草案》的計劃及目的是「提 倡和鼓勵作出道歉,以期防止爭端惡化,和促進和睦排解 爭端」。尤其引人興趣的是,條例究竟是怎樣草擬以確保 某人的道歉不構成該人承認法律責任或過失的。 《條例》賦予道歉一個廣泛的定義,藉行為作出及以默示 方式承認過失或法律責任的亦包括在內,但訂明並不包括 在送交法庭存檔的文件中作出的道歉。 道歉在訴訟的作用非常少,誹謗訴訟則屬例外情況,在誹 謗訴訟中,被告人如沒有抗辯勝訴的機會,即時道歉有可 能將損害賠償限定在一個範圍內。當然,法庭不可能命令 一方作出道歉。 確切點說,道歉不是金錢上(甚至是感情上)的賠償,但可以 作為以調解達成和解的內容一部分。有些人可能認為道歉 只是減低損害賠償的一種方法,不過,如果接受道歉的一 方也是這麼想,道歉就可能達不到實際的效果。 也許現在是時候按照傳統的調解理論,提醒那些在這範 疇就道歉要素給客戶提供意見的人,道歉應當是:(i)誠懇 的,(ii)自願的,(iii)用對方接受的言詞的,(iv)在適當時間作 出的,及(v)具體的。時間方面,與談判一輪,計算一番之 後才作出的道歉相比,一早無條件地作出的道歉也許更有 可能令雙方達成和解。 Carl Schneider在一篇題為 Mediation Quarterly的文章中強 調,要向人道歉收到效果,道歉時不應諸多藉口或解釋, 又或者附帶條件。 Roger Fisher是著名書作Getting to Yes的作者之一,他與 Daniel Shapiro合寫Beyond Reason時,在書中加入自己有關 這題目的想法。Fisher和Shapiro認為道歉時應當(i)承認有情 感上的影響,(ii)表達悔意,及(iii)承諾不會重蹈覆轍。 由此可見,道歉一定要字斟句酌。有很多人要求(可能是不 切實際的要求)在簡單甚至有時必定要簡潔的道歉之中,將 上文所述的包括在內。人們可以認為「對不起」三個字本 身有一種力量,可以使人不覺得說的人對被投訴的事滿不 在乎。然而,應當記住,不甘心情願或明顯別有居心,只 為了減低損害賠償而作出的道歉,有可能達不到所想要的 效果。

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