The Court of Protection (Amendment) Rules 2011 come into force on 12 December 2011.
These Rules have been brought in to authorise Court of Protection officers to deal with the large volume of routine applications currently being dealt with by Judges.
There will be a number of safeguards:
- the court officers will be authorised by the Senior Judge or the President of the Court of Protection
- the officers will only be authorised to deal with specific types of application, limited to decisions about non-contentious property and financial affairs
- if the officer thinks a matter should be considered by a Judge, instead of a court officer, they must refer that matter to the Judge
- they cannot deal with any application by way of a hearing (only on paper); and
- they cannot deal with an application for the reconsideration of a decision made by themselves or another authorised court officer.
The Ministry of Justice has confirmed that the cases decided by the authorised officer will follow the same procedure as those decided by a Judge and the decision of the officer will carry the same authority as a judicial decision, so it will be legally binding.
There will still be a fee for the applications, regardless of whether they are dealt with by the authorised court officers or a Judge; but the purpose of the new Rules is to reduce the delays that are currently causing unnecessary anxiety to the most vulnerable people, whose affairs are being dealt with by the Court of Protection as a last resort.