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Court of Protection to ‘extend transparency’ with public hearings

Media and public have the right to see justice being done, says justice minister

19 November 2015

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The Court of Protection is to grant greater access to the media and the public thanks to a pilot scheme launching next year.

The scheme will assess whether the court should hold its hearings in public in the long term or whether access should be given only to the media.

The court has come under criticism from sections of the media for being 'secretive' over the decisions it makes about the personal welfare, property, and affairs of persons who lack capacity to make them themselves.

Hearings usually take place in private with only those directly involved in the case attending. The pilot scheme will reverse this approach with the court hearing cases in public, subject to anonymity orders to protect the parties involved.

Sir James Munby, president of the Court of Protection, observed: 'For the last six years, accredited media have been able to attend family court cases and have been better informed about the work of the family court as a result.

'It is logical to look at extending this greater transparency to the Court of Protection, provided the right balance can be struck to safeguard the privacy of people who lack capacity to make their own decisions.'

Vice president, Mr Justice Charles, also supported the move as a way to promote a wider understanding of the court's work and to improve its performance.

'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,' he added.

Also commenting on the pilot, Justice Minister Caroline Dinenage said: 'It's right the public and the media should be able to see justice being done in this important court, while protecting the privacy of the people involved.'

Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) is to amend how court lists are displayed, so that they provide a short descriptor of what the case is about, allowing the media and the public to make an informed decision on whether to attend the hearing.

The pilot is expected to run in all regions from January 2016 for at least six months to allow for the changes to be fully tested.

John van der Luit-Drummond is deputy editor for Solicitors Journal | @JvdLD

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