Judge issues warning over Court of Protection pilot
The head of the family division, Sir James Munby, had announced last year that he wanted to explore options for improving the understanding of how the court operated, following previous criticism that too many decisions were made behind closed doors.
A six-month “transparency” pilot is expected to get underway later this month, on the orders of Sir James and Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas.
But the idea of giving the press and public greater access to hearings will hinge very much on also ensuring that the privacy of the parties involved is respected.
Mr Justice Charles, who is vice-president of the Court of Protection, believes there is an argument for a more open process, but warned that the new arrangements could be altered if there was evidence of misbehaviour among journalists.
“I have long been of the view that we should let the sun shine in,” he told The Times.
“If it promotes responsible reporting of very difficult issues, if reporting is evenly balanced, and patients are not being bombarded in hospitals or their care homes, or patients’ families in their homes, and they don’t feel threatened in giving their evidence, for my part it will have served a great deal of its purpose.
“If it promotes lazy irresponsible reporting or very intrusive actions such as doorstepping, that will clearly be a factor to be taken into account in seeing whether we alter the arrangements.”
Judges will have to decide whether to make the new system permanent once they have reviewed how the pilot has worked in practice.