Judge calls for press access to closed courts
Emily Dugan is Social Affais Editor for The Independent, i and Independent on Sunday. She was previously a news reporter for The Independent on Sunday. Her investigations into human trafficking have twice been awarded Best Investigative Article at the Anti-Slavery Day Media Awards and her human rights journalism was shortlisted for the Gaby Rado Memorial prize at the 2012 Amnesty Media Awards. Emily is on sabbatical until March 2015
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 17 October 2013
Britain’s most secretive court has made a further step towards transparency after its top judge called for the attendance of journalists to be its default position.
Sir James Munby, the President of the Family Division, told a private gathering of lawyers at a conference on Monday that he wanted to see reporters routinely allowed into the Court of Protection.
The majority of cases are currently heard in private and reporters have to make lengthy applications to attend, but Sir James said the assumption should now be that journalists are given access to the court.
The court, which makes major care and medical decisions on behalf of those deemed to lack mental capacity, has been gradually opening up to reporters since The Independent led newspaper campaigns for access five years ago.
Speaking at the annual Court of Protection Practice Conference, Sir James called for the court to be given the same press access as the family courts.
The exact wording of his speech is not yet available since journalists were not invited to the conference, but the legal journal familylaw.co.uk, summarised his points and said the senior judge quoted Justice Louis Brandeis saying that “sunlight is the best disinfectant”. It also outlined his intention to establish a committee urgently to deal with reforms to the court.
Sir James pointed out that while accredited media representatives can attend almost any family hearing, the opposite is true of the Court of Protection. He said he did not see the logic in that and that he felt there should be a presumptive right of the media to attend cases, as in family law.
Mark Neary, who fought a long battle with the court to be reunited with his autistic son, Steven, after he was illegally placed in a care home by Hillingdon Council, said of Sir James’ plans: “That’s absolutely fantastic. The press helped release Stephen so that’s absolutely brilliant news.”
Neary’s case was able to be reported after The Independent and other newspapers won the first of a series of court judgments that allowed limited press coverage of a small number of Court of Protection hearings.
Sir Mark Hedley, a recently retired judge in the court, said: “Subject to confidentiality I’m keen on the courts being open because I think the Court of Protection has extraordinarily wide powers which ought to be administered in public. I would support the president’s view but I’m conscious that the Court of Protection has its own specific set of rules which would need to be changed.”
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said that Sir James’ speech was “off the cuff at times” and that a full transcript was not yet available.
- 1 Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
- 2 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 3 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Average penis size revealed: Scientists attempt to find what is 'normal' to reassure concerned men
Bill Clinton portrait features Monica Lewinsky reference, artist admits
Japanese island overrun with cats after population explodes
China's 'Inconvenient Truth': video exposing country’s smog crisis watched 100 million times
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...
£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...
£38000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This B2B content marketing agen...
£50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...