Court of Protection hearings now open to the public

A pilot scheme has begun to open up proceedings in the Court of Protection to the public and the media. The pilot is expected to run for at least six months.

The Court makes decisions on personal welfare matters as well as property and affairs of those lacking the mental capacity to do so themselves with a best interest test. Hearings already underway are not affected.

A release from the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary read: “The Practice Direction will effectively change the default position to one where hearings are held in public with reporting restrictions to protect identities.

“This means that when an order has been made under the pilot, both the media and the public will be able to attend, unless a further order has been made which excludes them. This will also apply to proceedings issued pre- 29 January but where a further hearing becomes necessary after the start date.”

Sir James Munby, President of the Court of Protection, said: “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 of the Court of Protection Mr Justice Charles said: “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.”

Justice Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “It is our ambition to increase the transparency and public accountability of our courts.

“While the privacy of the people involved will continue to be protected, it is also important that the public and media are able to see how justice is done.”

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