We reported in August upon the draft Guidance issued by Sir James Munby P on the publication of judgments. He has been warming to his theme of increasing transparency in the Court of Protection, in speeches both to the Jordans’ Court of Protection Conference in October and, in more detail, to the Society of Editors in November. In the latter speech, the President indicated the likely direction of travel thus:
Changes to primary legislation are unlikely in the near future, so the necessary changes must be achieved, as I believe they can be, within the existing framework.
The first step will be the introduction, later this year, of the final version of the Practice Guidance: ‘Transparency in the Family Courts and the Court of Protection – Publication of Judgments’. This is currently being revised and adjusted to take into account the many comments and suggestions I have received.
The next step is to consider practical steps to enable the media to have access to some at least of the documents used in court. That access by the media to documents is essential if there is to be any meaningful use of their right of access to the court hearing seems to me to be obvious. The questions of course, and the answers are not immediately apparent, are: What documents? In what form (for example, anonymised or redacted)? And subject to what safeguards? Public consultation and debate, including consultation and debate with the media, will be essential, but I am confident that we will be able to make progress, even if initially on a cautious and limited basis.
The third step is to consider appropriate amendments to, as well as the aligning of, the rules governing the family courts and the Court of Protection. Rule changes always take time, which is why I propose in the first instance to proceed with changes that do not require any amendments to the rules.