The Power of Apology: the Future of Apology in Civil & Criminal Justice

Apologising for wrongs is a normal part of healthy social interaction.  Yet does the legal system tend to obstruct apology? If so, what are the implications for all parties?

Recent legislation in both the civil and criminal justice spheres has led to new interest in how apology can be facilitated. What will this new legislation mean and where should Scotland go from here?

When legislators protect such apologies in an attempt to maintain normal social civility in the hope of preventing litigation we must ask whether the apology is affected by law in such a way as to merely become a cynical PR device. Apology is also used as a remedy in criminal law (e.g. Restorative Justice), but is this also a cynical PR exercise? Is there something of value in any apology, even in a court-ordered apology? What does and should the future hold for the role of apology in civil and criminal justice?

Prue Vines is Professor of Law at University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia , where she is Co-Director of the Private Law Research and Policy Group. She has also been Visiting Professor at Strathclyde University Law School since 2006. She is a leading expert on the role of apology in the justice system, as well as in tort and succession law. She has advised Law Reform Commissions and Governments in Australia, the UK, and New Zealand. The author most recently of Law & Justice in Australia (OUP) she is also the author of numerous books and articles on torts and succession and co-editor of the latest edition of Fleming on Tort Law.  Her work on apology draws on a range of disciplinary perspectives, including psychology (in which she originally studied and worked), sociology and philosophy. Mary Munro is Senior Visiting Fellow at CLCJ, Law School. She is a founder member of the RJ Forum Scotland and teaches RJ on the LLM / MSc in Criminal Justice & Penal Change at Strathclyde.  She is also editor of Scottish Justice Matters. Before moving to Scotland in 1992 she was a probation officer having originally qualified and practised as a solicitor.