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'Son not harmed by publicity' judge rules

A High Court judge gave his reasons yesterday for ruling that media organisations can attend hearings in a case involving a father's struggle to care for his autistic son. The Court of Protection rules on the affairs of people unable to do so themselves and most cases are heard in private.

Mr Justice Peter Jackson, who also agreed the parties in the proceedings can be identified, said his conclusion concerning reporting of the case of 20-year-old Steven Neary was "not intended to set a precedent". Media representatives have previously reported on a Court of Protection case involving the musical prodigy David Paravicini.

In Steven's case, which was reported in yesterday's Independent, it is thought to be the first time a judge in the Court of Protection has agreed at the outset that the parties could be identified.

Mr Justice Jackson said: "Steven's circumstances are already in the public domain to a considerable extent. If the claims made by Mr Neary and the Official Solicitor are made out [win the verdict], the facts deserve to be known to the public. If they are not made out, it may be right for the record to be corrected."

He said he would "unhesitatingly exclude the media if the evidence showed a real possibility of detriment or distress to Steven of anything other than a trivial nature. However, I do not find the evidence for such detriment.

"There is no evidence whatever that Steven has suffered from the publicity that has already been generated. His life has not been destabilised and he has not been made anxious by the coverage so far."