(Family Division; Hedley J; 12 November 2009)
The media applied to attend hearings in the Court of Protection concerning a young vulnerable adult, whose remarkable gifts had brought him to the public's attention.
Real weight must be given to the Court of Protection Rules 2007 (SI 2007/1744), rule 90(1), which provided that these matters were to be dealt with in private attended only by those listed in r 90(2) and real value must also be given to the concept of 'good reason' when considering under r 93 whether there was good reason to depart from the general rule. The words 'good reason' should be given their ordinary meaning, and did not import the concept 'exceptional'. The value of the word 'good' should be sought in the context of the purpose of the rule, which was both to protect privacy and to encourage frankness in the discussion of such private matters.
Proceedings in the Court of Protection were within the exceptions to the open justice principle, therefore the Art 10 rights of the media were not engaged by the institution of such proceedings. However, once good reason had been established, then Art 10 was engaged and the balancing exercise between the respective Art 8 and Art 10 rights had to be undertaken. Good reason did not automatically trigger a public hearing; it triggered the balancing exercise. In this case the media was to be allowed into the hearings and some reporting was to be allowed, on the basis that it was for the media to demonstrate what should be allowed.