A pilot transparency scheme will run for at least 6 months which will allow members of the public and the media to legally gain access you Court of Protection hearings in England and Wales, subject to their commitment not to publicise any information discussed there in a way which could identify any party to the community at large. The pilot came into force as of the 29th January 2016, but will not apply to hearings that have already been listed prior to this date.
In accordance with the scheme, Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) are also modifying the court lists, which will now provide a brief outline of what each respective case is about. This is designed to allow members of the public and the media to make a decision as to whether they wish to attend these hearings.
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."
“The transparency pilot has been live for just over two months. All the indications are that the pilot will become established practice after 31 July 2016 which is the date on which the pilot is due to conclude. The pilot scheme provides that any member of the public can come into any Court of Protection hearing that is being heard in public - and the presumption is that all hearings will be in public unless there a good reason why they should not be. At the present time, there appears to be only limited interest and the experience of most solicitors is that members of the public do not routinely attend hearings. It may be in time that there is a greater interest and greater attendance as knowledge of the fact that these hearings are now being held in public spreads. Whilst the scheme causes a little more work for solicitors, it does bring the Court of Protection into line with most other jurisdictions on the question of public attendance and with the principle that justice not only needs to be done but needs to be seen to be done.”