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Open court or private hearing?

This content applies to England & Wales

The distinction between hearings held in open court, and private hearings.

Under the Civil Procedure Rules, the distinction between public and private hearings is not whether a claim is heard in a court room or in private (referred to as the 'judge's room' or 'chambers'), but whether members of the public are allowed to attend the hearing wherever it takes place.[1] Courts are not required to make any special arrangements to accommodate members of the public (eg if the judge's room is too small to accommodate more than those directly concerned with the claim). However, where a hearing is 'public', anyone may obtain a copy of the order made upon payment of the appropriate fee.

The general rule is that hearings should be in public.[2] However, the rules specify that certain cases must be heard in private, including mortgage possession claims, landlord possession claims for rent arrears, and applications to suspend or stay warrants.[3]

[1] Civil Procedure Rules, Part 39.

[2] Civil Procedure Rules, rule 39.2(1).

[3] Civil Procedure Rules, rule 39.2(3)(c).

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