Judge criticises lawyers for not telling media of anonymity claim

A High Court judge has criticised lawyers representing two health authorities for not having given journalists enough warning about a hearing relating to the treatment of a mentally ill woman.
 
Mr Justice Peter Jackson also criticised the paperwork given to him in advance of a hearing in the Court of Protection in London yesterday.
 
The health authorities were asking the judge to allow doctors to operate on the woman who, they said, would need to be escorted to and from a hospital in handcuffs.
 
Doctors say the woman is detained at a specialist secure unit under the terms of mental health legislation and needs a hysterectomy.
 
They say she does have the mental capacity to make a decision about treatment, because she might be a risk to herself and others, would have to be kept in handcuffs at all times, except when under general anaesthetic.
 
Health authority officials asked the judge to impose reporting restrictions to prevent the woman being identified.
 
But the judge was told that journalists had not been notified of the reporting restriction applications through an alerts service as they should have been under the terms of a Practice Direction issued by the then President of the Family Division of the High Court, Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, in March 2005.
 
The judge said he was "not quite sure" why the normal procedure was not followed.
 
Three reporters had learned of the application for reporting restrictions shortly before the hearing started and were in court, the judge heard.
 
One was alerted by a lawyer and two as a result of a message from the judge's clerk.
 
Mr Justice Peter Jackson also said that in the paperwork prepared for him the people involved were referred to only by initials, although they should all have been named.
 
A written application had also wrongly referred to the woman needing dental treatment, said the judge, who added that he did not expect to have re-draft paperwork during court hearings.
 
Mr Justice Peter Jackson, who heard evidence at an open court hearing, later ruled that nothing could be reported which might identify the woman.
 
He banned publication of her identity plus the names of the unit where she is detained, the hospital where she would have surgery and the health authorities with responsibility for her care.
 
The Court of Protection, part of the Family Division of the High Court, deals with cases relating to those who, because of physical or mental illness, are unable to deal with their own affairs or make decisions about their care or medical treatment.
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