Court of Protection Pilots Begin

The pilot scheme which will see the public and media gain access to Court of Protection hearings across England and Wales for the first time has begun.

A new Pilot Practice Direction, changing the default position to one where hearings are held in public with reporting restrictions to protect identities, will apply to new proceedings issued from last Friday onwards. Hearings scheduled already under the old rules will not be changed but some urgent open hearings will feed through to the courts from next month.

Contact details for the HM Court and Tribunal Service officials responsible for the Court of Protection’s administrative regional hubs have been supplied by the Ministry of Justice, so that editors can initiate discussions on reporting practicalities.  These have been circulated to member publishers by the News Media Association, which previously encouraged and welcomed the initiative.  

The specialist Court makes decisions about the personal welfare, such as medical treatment, and the property and affairs of persons who lack capacity to make them themselves, applying a best interests test. The pilot is expected to run in all regions for at least six months, with the possibility of extension, to allow for the changes to be fully tested, the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary said in an announcement.  

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.”