Formerly secret Court of Protection commits to transparency with pledge to publish judgments
Emily Dugan is Social Affairs 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. Her first book, 'Finding Home: Real Stories of Migrant Britain', was published by Icon Books in July 2015.
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 16 January 2014
Judges who make life-changing decisions on behalf of people who lack mental capacity will now routinely have to publish their judgments.
The Court of Protection has previously been criticised for being secretive. But now its most senior judge, Sir James Munby, has published new guidance for judges which urges transparency.
Sir James, who is president of the Family Division of the High Court, said: “There is a need for greater transparency in order to improve public understanding of the court process and confidence in the court system. At present too few judgments are made available to the public, which has a legitimate interest in being able to read what is being done by the judges in its name.”
He added: “Permission to publish a judgment should always be given whenever the judge concludes that publication would be in the public interest and whether or not a request has been made by a party or the media.”
The Independent has been campaigning for media access to the court since 2009. Sir James said the new guidance, which takes effect in February, will mean more judgements are published online. This will allow journalists - and the public - to better scrutinise the court’s decisions.
Mark Neary, who battled with the court to be reunited with his autistic son, Steven, after he was illegally placed in a care home, said of the new rules: “That’s fantastic news. It’s brilliant for people who are in the situation me and Stephen were in three years ago.
“I spent weeks and weeks trying to find other cases and get help. The more judgments that are available the more accessible the process becomes for people.”
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.
Mr Neary said of the paper’s role in the new rules: “I think the campaigning from The Independent made an enormous difference. If it had just been families, I’m not sure we’d have got here. Families don’t have the same clout as a newspaper pushing and pushing.”
Sir Mark Hedley, a recently retired judge in the court, who had a reputation for encouraging media scrutiny, said: “I’m certainly pleased if we are going to move towards having anonymised judgements published. I think it would have happened anyway but it happened more quickly as a result of [newspaper campaigns].”
Sir James said he wanted, as far as possible, for media access to the Court of Protection to work in the same way as it does in the family courts. He said he was making the changes incrementally, with further guidance planned for the future. Primary legislation was, however, unlikely, he said.
Public authorities and expert witnesses will be named in the published judgments unless there is a compelling reason not to. The person who the proceedings are about - and their family - would not ordinarily be named, in order to protect their privacy.
The judgments which now must ordinarily be published include: anything referring to the giving or receiving of serious medical treatment; the deprivation of liberty; moving someone in or out of residential care; selling a home; a dispute over a person’s guardian or deputy; and someone’s capacity to marry or have sexual relations. In other cases, it will not be assumed that the judgment be made public, though it still can be.
- 2 Porn block in India: hundreds of sexual websites banned, internet outraged
- 4 Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
- 5 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
Jackie Chan in second place in Forbes' Highest Paid Actors list after magazine includes actors working outside US movie industry
Malaysia issues arrest warrant for Gordon Brown’s sister-in-law after she publishes stories on leader Najib Razak's financial affairs
Natalia Molchanova: World's most successful free-diver missing and feared dead after disappearing in Mediterranean
Dutch King Willem-Alexander declares the end of the welfare state
Pizza Express protests: these restaurants charge staff for tips paid by card
Is Britain really full up? Are migrants taking our jobs? Leading academic answers the most common anti-immigration claims
Calais Migrant Crisis: Deputy Mayor of Calais labels Cameron's use of 'swarm' as 'racist' and 'ignorant'
Chris Leslie: Jeremy Corbyn's anti-austerity agenda will harm the poor, says Labour shadow Chancellor
Jeremy Corbyn: Tony Blair could face war crimes trial over 'illegal Iraq invasion'
Landlords renting properties to illegal immigrants to face up to five years in prison
While we fixate on Calais, the Home Office is quietly deporting dozens of migrants on 'ghost flights'
£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...
£17000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly growing company is...
£40000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Become a professional Trader a...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...