Court of Protection opens its doors

9 March, 2016

These days the news is full of comment and concern about the supposedly secret and hidden work of some of our courts and the fact that they cannot be held to account if we don’t know what happens behind closed doors. In some cases, such as where the security services are involved, it is vital that secrecy is maintained but in the courts which deal with personal and family matters, is that really necessary, or in the best interests of justice?  The answer is now generally thought to be ‘no’ and the balance is swinging towards openness and clarity, with support from the judges, so that justice is not only done but is seen to be done.  The Family Court was an early adopter, and has allowed the press to attend hearings for the last six years.  Now it is the turn of the Court of Protection.

What is the Court of Protection?

The Court of Protection looks after the interests of people who lack the mental capacity to look after their own financial affairs or their own welfare, whether temporarily or permanently. It appoints Deputies to make decisions for individuals on an on-going basis and can also make one-off emergency decisions, such as whether or not to turn off life support for an individual, to allow or refuse medical treatment or whether someone should be deprived of their liberty.

Historically the court sat in private because of the sensitive and personal nature of its work. Cases could only be reported with special permission from the judge.  From 29 January 2016 this has changed.  All hearings will normally be held in open court.  This means that the public and the press can attend, subject to reporting restrictions to protect the identities of the parties.  It will still be possible to have private hearings by special application to the court but there will need to be a good reason for it.

The court listings, which set out which cases will be heard on each day, will also say what the case is about. This will help members of the public and the press to decide whether or not to attend a hearing.  The lists will be published weekly in court buildings and online at www.courtserve.net

There are concerns in some quarters about opening up this particular Court.   So this is initially a pilot scheme, expected to last for at least 6 months, but it is likely to be made permanent if the pilot goes smoothly.

At Cripps Pemberton Greenish we have a number of experienced Deputies whom the Court of Protection regularly appoints to manage the affairs of protected parties. We also have extensive experience of acting for protected parties and other parties to applications in the Court.  If you are worried about the mental capacity of a friend or relation, or simply want to know more about the work of the Court of Protection, please contact Philip Youdan.