No hearings in the Court of Protection which require people to attend are to take place unless there is a genuine urgency and it is not possible to conduct a remote hearing, the Court’s Vice-President has said.
In Further Guidance for Judges and Practitioners in the Court of Protection arising from Covid-19 (external link to Alex Ruck-Keene’s Mental Capacity Law and Policy blog) Mr Justice Hayden said the Lord Chief Justice’s directions for hearings in County and Family Courts did not address the Court of Protection but it seemed to him that exactly the same measures should be extended to it.
The LCJ had said: “No hearings which require people to attend are to take place in any County or Family Court until further notice, unless there is a genuine urgency and no remote hearing is possible. All cases currently being heard should be adjourned part heard so that arrangements can be made, where possible, to conduct the hearings remotely”.
Mr Justice Hayden highlighted how Mostyn J had recently conducted an extremely complex and urgent hearing entirely by Skype conference, saying this illustrated the fact that even cases of “genuine urgency” may be heard remotely.
The Vice-President said: “Perhaps more than any other court, the Court of Protection is required to hear cases which can properly be described as ‘genuinely urgent’ and sometimes involve decisions concerning life and death.
“Some judges have expressed concern as to how these very serious cases will be identified and afforded priority in our present challenging circumstances. The short answer is that for now the existing procedures will continue to apply.
“Thus, the application will be issued at First Avenue House and then transferred to Tier 3 (the Royal Courts of Justice) via the generic email. A judge will then be allocated to hear the case. Though most of the staff are presently working remotely the system is continuing to work effectively.”
Mr Justice Hayden added that he did understand the judicial anxiety about this particular category of case.
“Accordingly, if there is any difficulty in issuing or processing these applications, my clerk may be emailed directly and I will ensure that a judge is identified (details via the link above). I would however wish to emphasise that this is a backup arrangement to be followed only if there are difficulties in processing the case through the usual channels.”
Mr Justice Hayden ended the guidance by saying: “As we all appreciate the landscape has changed on a fairly regular basis over the course of the last ten days. It is equally obvious that the challenges are not going to be resolved quickly. May I, once again, thank all of you for your continuing hard work and professionalism.”
The Vice-President's earlier guidance can be accessed here.