Purpose of the new Mediation Ordinance
Hong Kong’s new Mediation Ordinance (“the Ordinance”) came into effect on 1 January 2013 and provides a regulatory framework in respect of certain aspects of mediation, including confidentiality and privilege. The Ordinance states its objects as being:-
i. to promote, encourage and facilitate the resolution of disputes by mediation; and
ii. to protect the confidential nature of mediation communications.
For the purpose of the Ordinance, “mediation” is defined as:
…” a structured process comprising one or more sessions in which one or more impartial individuals, without adjudicating a dispute or any aspect of it, assist the parties to the dispute to do any or all of the following:-
A “session” is a meeting between a mediator and one or more of the parties to the dispute and includes any activity undertaken in respect of arranging or preparing for it (whether or not it takes place) and follow up of any issues and matters raised at it.
What mediations does the Ordinance apply to?
The Ordinance applies to any mediation conducted under an agreement to mediate if either of the following circumstances apply:-
The Ordinance does not apply to those processes listed in Schedule 1 of the Ordinance. These include, for example, mediation proceedings under sections 32(3) and 33 of the Arbitration Ordinance (Cap 609) and conciliation under certain sections of the Labour Tribunal Ordinance (Cap 25).
An agreement to mediate means an agreement in writing by two or more persons to submit a dispute to mediation, regardless of whether:-
|a.||the agreement is in the form of a mediation clause in an agreement or in the form of a separate agreement;|
|b.||whether the agreement is made before or after the dispute arises; and|
|c.||whether or not a mediator is appointed at the time the agreement is made.|
An agreement to mediate can be in electronic form.
The Ordinance applies to:-
What mediation communications does the Ordinance apply to?
The Ordinance applies to any mediation communication (made before, on or after 1 January 2013) relating to any mediation to which the Ordinance applies. A “mediation communication” means:-
for the purpose of or in the course of mediation, but does not include:-
Confidentiality of mediation communications
The Ordinance prohibits a person from disclosing a mediation communication, except in the following circumstances:-
(a) with the consent of the parties to the mediation, the mediator(s), and the person who made the communication (in those cases where s/he is not a party to the mediation);
(b) information that is already in the public domain (apart from that put in the public domain unlawfully);
(c) information which is otherwise subject to discovery in civil proceedings or similar procedures;
(d) there are reasonable grounds to believe that disclosure is necessary to prevent/minimise danger of injury to any person or of serious harm to a child’s well-being;
(e) disclosure is made for research, evaluation or educational purposes, without revealing, or being likely to reveal, the identity of the person to whom the mediation communication relates;
(f) disclosure is made for the purpose of seeking legal advice; or
(g) disclosure is required by law.
A mediation communication can be disclosed, with the court’s or tribunal’s leave, for the following purposes:-
Admissibility of mediation communications in evidence
A mediation communication can only be admitted in evidence in any judicial, arbitral, administrative or disciplinary proceedings with the court’s or tribunal’s (as the case may be) leave.
Leave for disclosure or admission into evidence of a mediation communication
The Ordinance specifies the matters to be taken into account by the court or tribunal when deciding whether to grant leave for disclosure of a mediation communication or its admission into evidence, namely whether the mediation communication may be or has been disclosed i.e. whether it falls within one of the categories, referred to at (a) to (g) above, whether it is in the public interest or interests of the administration of justice and any other circumstances or matters the court or tribunal considers relevant.