Pilot scheme will see more Court of Protection hearings held in public


An experiment which will give journalists and members of the public more access to a specialist court where judges analyse issues relating to sick and vulnerable people is due to start soon.

Most hearings in the Court of Protection are held in private, although judges sit in public when they consider issues relating to serious medical treatment.

In November, judicial heads announced the launch of a pilot scheme which is due to start this month and which will see most hearings held in public.

Officials say the launch of the pilot scheme, due to run for at least six months, follows moves to allow reporters more access to family court hearings.

They say judges will usually make orders preventing the identities of people at the centre of Court of Protection litigation being revealed.

Cases are currently listed by numbers but officials say as part of the pilot scheme, listings will be changed to give an indication of what cases are about.

Sir James Munby, the most senior Court of Protection judge in England and Wales, has described the setting up of the pilot scheme as a logical move.

''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,'' Sir James, who is the President of the Court of Protection and the President of the Family Division of the High Court, said in November.

"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.''

A spokesman for the Judicial Office, which provides support to judges, said: ''With rare exceptions, such as serious medical cases, hearings have usually been in private with only those directly involved in the case attending.

''The pilot will reverse this approach and the court will normally direct that its hearings will be in public and make an anonymity order to protect the people involved.

''The scheme will provide evidence to assess whether the court should in future hold its hearings in private or in public and whether access should be given to the media but not the public.''