'Independent' makes legal challenge to closed court cases

Tuesday 06 October 2009 00:00 BST

Closed court hearings involving some of the most difficult and sensitive cases in England and Wales could soon be opened to the public following a legal challenge brought by The Independent.

The cases involve vulnerable people incapable of managing their own affairs, including brain-damaged soldiers, people with Alzheimer's disease and others lacking mental capacity. In a test case before the High Court in London, this newspaper argued that such matters should not be decided in secret by the newly created Court of Public Protection.

The challenge follows the opening up of the family courts this year, which allowed the media to attend and report on certain proceedings. Supported by other media organisations, lawyers for Independent News and Media (INM), the owner of The Independent and The Independent On Sunday, argued that there was a strong public interest in the media being given access to "appropriate" Court of Protection cases, in the interests of open justice.

Louise Hayman, the group general counsel for INM, said: "Decisions about whether a person lacks capacity and what is in the best interests of that person are vitally important decisions to those individuals, their families and to society at large. The difficult dilemmas and judgments the Court has to make are part of what makes its work so interesting and important." The case will continue at the High Court today.

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