Court of Protection

The Court of Protection normally sits in private but reporting restrictions can be relaxed in cases deemed to be in the public interest

A judge made legal and media history on Monday, when he ruled that a case being heard in the court of protection could be reported as it is in progress.

The case concerns a 92-year-old man who, his son alleges, is being kept in a care home against his will. The man, who can only be referred to as SJ, is being kept in the care home under a deprivation of liberty order, with the local authority claiming he lacks the mental capacity to make a decision about where to live.

His son, known only as DJ, contests that SJ wants to live at home with him and his wife and has launched a legal action in an attempt to take his father out of care.

The court of protection hears cases involving particularly vulnerable people or those deemed to be unable to make decisions for themselves.

The court normally sits in private, but following a ruling last year judges are permitted to allow journalists to attend when a case is deemed to be in the public interest. Reporting restrictions still limit coverage to certain key facts about the case, nearly always after a judgement has been passed.

But following an application by the publisher of the Times and Sunday Times, Mr Justice Ryder decided that journalists will be able to carry out detailed reporting of SJ's case while it is being heard, and will have access to some of the material submitted to the court.

The judge said the case was typical of deprivation of liberty order cases heard in the court of protection, and was "a paradigm case in an area which is at the forefront of the public’s interest at the moment".

Both the man, his son, and the local council will remain anonymous and referred to as SJ and DJ, and the local authority referred to only as TCBC. The media is also limited from publishing any information about SJ's address or general location, any pictures of him, the name or address of any members of his family, the name or address of anyone involved in his care, or any other material likely to lead to his identification.

A judgement in the case is expected later today.

Although this is the first time the court of protection will allow detailed reporting of a case in real time, it follows a breakthrough earlier this year in which the media was allowed to report certain details of a case prior to judgement.

That case was also based on a contested deprivation of liberty order, and concerned whether Hillingdon Council was unlawful in detaining a 21-year-old autistic man in care for a year.

Steven Neary was taken into a "positive behaviour unit" in Hillingdon for a proposed three days in December 2009, after his father Mark fell ill, but the local authority refused to allow Neary to return to his father's care after raising concerns over his behaviour and weight.

Following a joint application to the court by the BBC, the Press Association, and the publishers of the Independent, the Guardian, and the Times, Mr Justice Jackson ruled there was a specific public interest in the case the media should be allowed to report certain details.

The same five newspaper groups achieved a breakthrough in the case in late February when they were allowed access to a previous hearing and given permission to identify the parties involved.

The first case of the media being granted access to a court of protection hearing was in 2009, when several newspaper groups applied to attend a hearing involving "A", a 30-year-old who also has autism.

Represented in the case were Independent News & Media, Associated Newspapers, Guardian News & Media, Times Newspapers, Telegraph Media Group and the Press Association.

The application was successful and "A" was subsequently identified as pianist Derek Paravicini.

The family courts, which also previously sat in private, were opened up to journalists in April 2009, although in January 2010 the Ministry of Justice reported that media attendance has been limited since access to family courts was granted.

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