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.