The Court of Protection has launched a pilot scheme which will allow the public and media greater access to hearings.
The Court of Protection makes rulings in cases involving people who are unable to make their own decisions due to disability, dementia or similar illnesses.
Under a new ‘practice direction’ [directive], all new Court of Protection cases and hearings will be held in public, although the identities of the people involved will still usually be concealed by reporting restrictions. If judges do believe a particular case should be held in private, they will need to issue orders specifically excluding the media or public from the courtroom.
Court lists will now also display a brief description of each case to encourage members of the public and media to attend if they wish.
The move follows years of claims within the popular media that the Court of Protection operates in secret.
Despite such claims, judgements issued by the Court have been published as a matter of routine since 2010. In addition, cases concerning the continuation of life support or otherwise, as well as other serious medical issues, were already held in public before the introduction of the new scheme.
In addition to his role as President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby also serves as President of the Court of Protection. He expressed the hope that the pilot scheme would encourage wider acceptance of transparency within the Court of Protection.
“I have long supported this move towards more public hearings to promote a wider understanding of the work and approach of the Court of Protection and improve its performance and that of those who appear in it. I am aware that others hold different views on whether hearings should generally be in public and hope that the pilot will provide useful evidence to weigh the rival arguments.”