Judge: Lieven J
Citation:  EWCOP 3
The issue for determination by the Court was whether the Court of Protection proceedings which had since they first come before the Court been heard in private, should now be heard in public, and whether a judgement should be published.
The case concerned P, a 21 year old woman who was found by the police in a state of extreme neglect. It is not made express in the judgment, but it can be inferred that she was at the time in the care of her parents. More than two years later, the police have still not made a decision as to whether or not to bring charges (presumably against the parents). P has since been moved to her own accommodation where she is supported by a team of carers.
The local authority supported the continuation of the Court’s decision to hear the case in private on the basis that there was a risk that P would be identified relatively easily were the matter to be heard in public because of the ‘almost unique nature of the case’. There was also said to be evidence that P becomes upset if she considers that people are talking about her, and that she appears to be concerned about her privacy. This position was supported by the Official Solicitor, who emphasised the personal and intimate information which was before the Court.
Representations and evidence were received by the Kent Police, who also submitted that the proceedings should remain in private. They argued that to allow any public reporting would interfere with the “integrity” of any future trial. Mrs Justice Lieven considered that these concerns were ‘significantly overstated’.
In carrying out the balancing exercise between the public interest in holding the proceedings in public (protected by article 10 of the ECHR) and the countervailing factors (here, P’s privacy protected by article 8 of the ECHR and a potential impact on any future criminal trial), the Judge concluded that the balance came down in favour of allowing the public to attend the proceedings, and the press to report on them. A factor that appears to have been of significant in this process is the fact that (contrary to what the Judge had hoped for P at the start of proceedings), P had not engaged very much with the outside world, and so the chances of her hearing any reports on the proceedings were slim.
There are not many judgments on the question of whether a hearing should be in private or in public. What is interesting about this one, is the specificity with which the Court analysed the impact on P of the proceedings being in public, taking account of the changing way in which P presented.