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Court of Protection should be open to the media, says senior judge

Hearings at the Court of Protection should be routinely open to the media, Britain’s most senior family law judge has declared.

Sir James Munby, President of the Family Division, said regulations should be changed to allow members of the press to attend hearings at the Court of Protection as a matter of course.

The Court of Protection makes rulings on behalf of people with learning and similar difficulties who lack the ability to make their own decisions. It routinely meets in private to protect the privacy of the people under assessment.

But Sir James told delegates at the Court of Protection Practice Conference earlier this week:

“… in the family court, any accredited media representative has the right to attend all family proceedings … the starting point in the court of protection is completely the other way round. My feeling is that the starting point should be the same in both, so that there should be the same kind of presumptive right of media access to court of protection proceedings, as there are in family proceedings.”

The Court of Protection should be regarded as a an extension of the family court system, he added, and operate under the same rules.

“How can one expect the media, how can one expect the world, how can one expect the public at large to have confidence in a system and to be supportive of a system which seems for no very obvious and rational reason [not to operate under the same rules]?”

The President said he planned to increase the publication of Court of Protection judgements as part of continuing drive to increase transparency – currently only a small proportion of the court’s judgements are published. Sir James also raised the possibility of the Court establishing a regional presence, rather than holding all hearings in London as at present, which can make it more difficult for those living outside the capital to attend.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. Guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    I strongly disagree with Sir Munby and in fact, I am 100% in favor of proceedings in family court being closed to the media and public as well.

  2. Lukey says:

    I agree with Sir James Munby, I think transparency is paramount.

  3. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    Dear Marilyn,
    With regard to your post about media access to cases heard in the Cout Of Pritection, I can tell you that here in Oklahoma USA all of our family law cases (with the exception of adoptions and guardianships) are part of the public record. This means that most if not all of the gory details of ny clients’ divorce cases are easily accessible by their friends, family members, co-workers, etc. In my opinion, those gory details are no ones business but my clients and their lawyers and my clients’ ex’s and their ex’s lawyers. Thus here in Oklahoma USAI would much prefer that ALL family law related cases be sealed from the public record.

    Your friend from the other side of the Atlantic,

  4. Tulsa Divorce Lawyer Matt Ingham says:

    Lukey, transparency is a good thinf, but then again so is privacy. Based on my experiences here in Oklahoma USA privacy of the parties ought to be of the utmost concern of the courts.

  5. Luke says:

    I understand Matt, but here’s the problem – if it is all done in private then the public will not be able to easily find out whether justice is being done or not in our courts.

    I appreciate that people want their privacy and it may be possible to work out a formula which limits knowledge being disseminated – especially that which affects children – but a blanket ban is definitely not the answer in my opinion.

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