Full case report

Independent News and Media Ltd & Ors v A

Reference [2009] EWHC 2858 (Fam)
Court Family Division

Judge Hedley J

Date of Judgment 12 Nov 2009


Summary

Reporting restrictions – Court of Protection – Article 10 – Freedom of expression – Article 8 – Respect for privacy


Facts

The Applicants, various media bodies, applied to attend and report on a hearing in the Court of Protection concerning the Respondent, a gifted severely disabled person who was internationally well-known. Section 93 of the Court Protection Rules 2007 (‘the Rules’) prohibits publication of information about proceedings or hearings in public unless “there is good reason” for ordering to the contrary.


Issue

Whether there was a good reason to open the hearing to the media and allow the publication of information about that hearing.


Held

Granting the application:
The proceedings fell outside the open justice principles derived from Scott v Scott [1913] AC 417. Real value must be given to the concept of ‘good reason’ before the court should grant access to the media. Once ‘good reason’ is established the Article 8 and Article 10 balancing exercise must occur. Here ‘good reason’ was satisfied as (i) the Respondent was well known to the public and all issues of principles were already within the public domain; and (ii) the Court was equipped with the powers to preserve privacy whilst addressing the issues in the case. The Respondent’s Article 8 rights were clearly engaged; the matters litigated involve issues of family trust, private financial affairs and the way in which decisions are made how he spends time. In considering Article 10 it was possible to accommodate the legitimate concerns for privacy and the legitimate aspirations for publicity.


Comment

A success for the media in winning the right to attend hearings not normally open to the public. The application was the first to challenge the Court of Protection’s accepted practice of private hearings.


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Instructing Solicitors

Romana Canneti for the Applicant; Irwin Mitchell for the Respondent