The Honourable Mr Justice Hayden, vice president of the Court of Protection, has recently published guidance for judges and practitioners in relation to coronavirus (COVID-19).
Visits to vulnerable clients
Many of the individuals subject to Court of Protection proceedings are highly vulnerable to the virus and visiting such people could put them at risk. However, it is intrinsic to the Court of Protection that their participation in the proceedings is facilitated where possible, and their wishes heard, with regular visits from advocates, solicitors and judges to elderly and vulnerable clients in care homes and other supported living placements. On 13 March, Mr Justice Hayden therefore found it necessary to go beyond the existing Public Health England guidance and signalled that visits to P should only be made where it is assessed as absolutely necessary. He also advised that visits to care homes are to be strongly discouraged.
Mr Justice Hayden stressed the importance of considering alternative arrangements first and emphasised the importance of creative use of technology, such as telephone, Skype and FaceTime conferencing to enable P's voice to be heard.
Attendance at court
The Practice Direction 4A already exists and enables the Court of Protection to direct the scope and ambit of any hearings. Mr Justice Hayden has advised that in light of the updated advice from Public Health England, it is likely that, for the foreseeable future, some Court of Protection hearings will need to be adjourned or to take place remotely. The approach for the time being will be:
- Hearings with time estimates of two hours or less will be conducted by telephone. The court listings will be published in advance as usual.
- Hearings with time estimates of more than two hours will, in principle, proceed unless and until further guidance or specific application in the case (to be decided by the judge).
- Practitioners will still be able to agree directions orders at interim stages without a hearing being required.
This approach will be subject to ongoing review.
We understand the stress and anxiety that this situation may be causing you, your family members and friends. We ensure you that, for the foreseeable future, we will continue to consider and use, where possible, a range of creative options to enable any court proceedings to continue smoothly and efficiently. Most importantly, it is essential that you keep yourselves as safe and healthy as possible.