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Court of Protection

Justice written question – answered on 18th July 2013.

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Photo of Rob Flello Rob Flello Shadow Minister (Justice)

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice

(1) how many cases coming before the Court of Protection were later subject to Judicial Review in each year since May 2005;

(2) how many decisions of the Court of Protection were appealed and how many were upheld or overturned in each year since May 2005;

(3) in how many cases the Court of Protection has made an order resulting in (a) imprisonment or (b) confiscation of a defendant's possessions in each year since May 2005;

(4) how many cases of the Court of Protection were prohibited from being reported in each year since May 2005.

Photo of Helen Grant Helen Grant The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Women and Equalities

The Court of Protection is a unique court dealing with some of the most vulnerable people in society. Its specialist judges are called on to make decisions in cases where there is a concern a person may not have the mental capacity to act in their own interests—for example about their property, financial affairs, healthcare or personal welfare. The Court of Protection is a Superior Court of Record and takes its place with other civil, family and criminal jurisdictions, but is separate from the county court and High Court and has its own set of rules.

The Ministry of Justice is not aware of any cases in the Court of Protection that have been subject to judicial review since the court was created on 1 October 2007. At the present time, data between the Court of Protection and other courts, including the Court of Appeal are not linked and I am therefore unable to provide information on the numbers of appealed cases and the outcomes with any degree of accuracy. We are investigating how this can be resolved.

The Court of Protection database does not hold a record of the outcomes of these appeals.

Since October 2007, the court has made an order for imprisonment in one case. That related to contempt. The court has no powers to confiscate a defendant's possessions.

The Court of Protection generally sits in private, but this is to reflect the sensitive and personal, and, in particular, the financial nature of the issues being discussed. It is also because the person who is the subject of the proceedings may become vulnerable if identified. However, the court does have a wide discretion to: authorise the publication of information about private hearings; authorise persons, including the media, to attend a private hearing; exclude persons from attending a hearing and otherwise restrict the publication of information about a hearing—the court will decide what restriction to impose on a case by case basis. The court does not record the detail of reporting restrictions. To research all cases where hearings have been held since October 2007 would be a disproportionate cost.

The Government agrees there is a need for greater openness in the Court of Protection and that it is important to make progress so as to ensure public confidence. We acknowledge that there is a public perception and concern that the court is unjustifiably secret and this cannot be allowed to continue.

The question of how to open up the Court of Protection further and balance access with proper controls to prevent the disclosure of sensitive information which might be harmful to parties in the proceedings if released (including vulnerable children and adults) remains a difficult and controversial issue, which requires careful and serious consideration.

The President of the Court of Protection is currently considering how progress can be made through changes to Rules of Court, practice directions and guidance to further the public understanding of proceedings, while respecting the right to privacy of vulnerable individuals.

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