The Vice-President of the Court of Protection, Hayden J, has issued guidance about closed hearings and closed materials. As it says in its opening paragraphs, it applies to ‘closed hearings’ and ‘closed materials,’ defined as follows:
1. “Closed hearings” are hearings from which (1) a party; and (2) (where the party is represented) the party’s representative is excluded by order of the court. For the avoidance of doubt, this is different to a “private hearing,” which is a hearing at which all the parties are present (or represented), but from which members of the public and the press are excluded;
2. “Closed material” is material which the court has determined should not be seen by the party (and/or their representative).
The practice guidance also applies to situations where an order may be made that a party (and/or their representative) is not to be told of the fact or outcome of a without notice application.
As the guidance emphasises:
In situations which are rare, but which do occur from time to time, it is necessary for the court to consider whether a hearing should be closed and/or for material be closed. Nothing in this guidance is intended to increase the number of closed hearings or applications for material to be closed. Rather, its purpose is to provide clarity as to the principles to be applied and considerations to be taken into account in the very limited circumstances under which such steps may be appropriate.