Rules governing whether it is lawful for a party or lawyer in a Court of Protection case to alert the press to the case need urgent clarification, a study on media access to the court has concluded.  

The study, by a group of lawyers, academics and journalists recommends an overhaul in the way the Court of Protection works with the media to correct misconceptions over issues such as deprivation of liberty.

Its recommendations include considering whether the media should be allowed to attend important welfare hearings without making an application first. 

The group’s report notes there was ‘disagreement’ among the participants about whether it is lawful for a party, or their lawyer, to alert the media to an important case. ‘There is an urgent need for clarity on this issue,’ it concludes.

‘Some participants felt that the court listings should be more informative, so that the media could see which cases might be important in order to send a journalist to attend the hearing. There were also concerns about the procedures for notifying the media about reporting restrictions.’

Among other recommendations of the study, funded by the Nuffield Foundation and led by researchers from Cardiff University’s School of Law, were:

  • Consideration should be given to whether the court should adopt a rule change to permit the media to attend important welfare hearings, as well as serious medical treatment cases, without making an application first – mirroring the practice in the family court;
  • Consideration should be given to improving the system for informing the media of important Court of Protection cases;
  • Practice directions may need to be updated to remind the parties of the need to notify the media of any order imposing reporting restrictions, in addition to notifying them of any application for reporting restrictions;
  • The court, or researchers, should explore ways to collect statistics on how effectively the transparency guidance on the publication of judgments is being complied with.

A copy of the report is available for download.