The Court of Protection could switch to a default position of holding hearings in public if a six-month pilot scheme to be held in all regions in England and Wales next year is considered a success, senior judges have said.
A practice direction made under rule 9A of the Court of Protection Rules 2007 (“CoPR”) provides for a pilot scheme for the holding of hearings to be in public pursuant to orders under Rule 92 with a standard order for restrictions on reporting to ensure the anonymity of those lacking capacity and, where appropriate, other persons.
The practice direction will apply to hearings in all proceedings except applications relating to serious medical treatment (for which Practice Direction 9E makes specific provision) and applications for a committal order (for which rule 188 makes specific provision).
The pilot involves reversing the current approach where – with rare exceptions, such as serious medical cases – the vast majority of hearings are in private with only those directly involved in the case attending.
The judiciary said the pilot scheme would provide evidence “to assess whether the Court should in future hold its hearings in private or in public and whether access should be given to the media but not the public”.
Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service will also amend the way in which court lists are displayed, so that they provide a short descriptor of what the case is about, allowing the media and members of the public to make an informed decision on whether to attend the hearing.