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New pilot scheme to run in the Court of Protection

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Senior Judges are to look at the options for making Court of Protection hearings more transparent.

At present, the vast majority of cases are heard behind closed doors, with only those directly involved in the proceedings entitled to attend.

A six-month pilot scheme – set to start in 2016 – will take a very different approach, with hearings to be heard in public (although anonymity orders will be imposed to protect the parties involved.)

Evidence collated during the trial arrangements will be used to decide how the Court of Protection will operate going forward.

Options could include opening all but a handful of cases to press and public or adopting the same policy as certain types of criminal proceedings, where bona fide members of the media are allowed to attend but the general public are not.

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 family court as a result.

“It is logical to look at extending this greater transparency to the Court of Protection, providing the right balance can be struck to safeguard the privacy of people who lack capacity to make their own decisions.”

Justice Minister Caroline Dineage said she was keen for a more “open process” to be introduced; there has previously been criticism about excessive secrecy, extending to cases which have actually resulted in parties receiving custodial sentences.

“It’s right the public and media should be able to see justice being done in this important court, while protecting the privacy of the people involved,” she said.

The pilot is expected to run in all regions of England and Wales from January and will last for at least six months (an extension may be considered if Judges decide they need more time to evaluate the impact of the changes.)

At Lester Morrill, our specialist Court of Protection solicitors are experienced in working with vulnerable individuals and their families, friends and care teams to ensure the best possible outcome. We currently manage cases involving private clients, solicitors, local authorities, referrals from the court and case managers. We also advise on matters relating to health and welfare, receiving referrals from family members and advocates. Please contact our team for further information.