The Court of Protection is piloting a scheme which will allow the public and media access to Court of Protection hearings across England and Wales for the first time.
This has been broadly welcomed and will hopefully help the public to understand the workings of a court that is often branded as secretive or worse in sensational, headline grabbing reports in some national newspapers.
However, as Barbara Rich rightly points out in this article, one of the biggest problems is the persistent misreporting by the media of the cases that are heard in the Court of Protection. As long as the media continues to provide inaccurate reports then it seems that the Court is bound to fail to achieve its fundamental aim of ensuring that the public get a clearer understanding about the workings of the court.
One purpose of the transparency measures is to improve public understanding of the court process and confidence in the court system. The court makes some momentous decisions about people's lives, and it is right that its workings and scope should be better understood. In addition, non-lawyers often act as decision makers under the Mental Capacity Act and need to know the law that shapes their duties. Although published judgments may be read by anyone on the internet, the media has a vital role in bringing Court of Protection cases to wider public awareness. But, to date, the work even of the serious media has largely failed to accurately explain what the court does and does not decide.