I support calls for the press to be given more access to report more openly the cases heard in the Court of Protection. In 2011, I was involved in the much reported case Neary vs Hillingdon. I originally approached the media for coverage of our case out of sheer desperation. At the time, my son, Steven, was under an unlawful deprivation of liberty authorisation and I had been unable to secure legal representation.
As the subsequent judgement of Justice Peter Jackson revealed, I was thwarted at every turn by Hillingdon in trying to challenge their authorisation, which I knew was inherently flawed. My approach to the press was never about publicity seeking; I was trying any means I could find to enable my son to return home.
Justice Jackson declared that because the case was already in the public domain it could be reported openly with a few minor exceptions. Subsequently, the case made the front pages of several newspapers.
I believe the media coverage has had absolutely no negative impact on Steven or me whatsoever. I had been warned of the dangers but have encountered nothing but total professionalism and enormous empathy in all my dealings with the press and media.
Since the judgement was made public, I have been contacted by many people in similar situations who have said they were inspired to become more knowledgeable and stand up for their family member's rights.
I have been invited to speak at numerous events and have been delighted to see what far-reaching impact the judgement has had. For example, the judgement is now used on several social workers degrees as valuable learning. Best interest assessors – who monitor someone when they have been deprived of their liberty – use the guidance of Justice Jackson to improve their practice, and supervisory bodies use the judgement to shape their policy. If this was an anonymous case, I doubt it would have been so widely picked up.
My own belief is that by not being anonymised, the public and professionals have been engaged by the human story that Steven and I represent. I have worked hard to shield Steven from any intrusion to his day-to-day life, as being autistic, routines and stability are very important to him. I have encountered nothing but respect from the press in making this happen.
To conclude, I just wish to reiterate that the involvement of the press and media in our case has been overwhelmingly positive and has opened up very important issues for discussion that have had far-reaching consequences to many people with learning disabilities and the people who care for them, both personally and professionally.
A version of this article appeared in the December issue of the British Journalism ReviewReuse content