The jurisdiction of courts in relation to wards of the state and mentally ill people was historically an exception to the general rule that proceedings should be held in public because the jurisdiction exercised in such cases was 'parental and administrative, and the disposal of controverted questions ... an incident only in the jurisdiction'.
Wardship cases and cases where a court is concerned with the responsibility for a child invoked by the Queen as parens patriae are no longer of great practical significance in this context. The Family Court's jurisdiction now covers virtually the whole of the relevant jurisdiction relating to children, including under its ‘welfare’ jurisdiction what would previously have been regarded as the wardship or parens patriae jurisdiction: see Re Z (1996) 20 Fam LR 651 ; FLC 92–694 at 83,230 and 83,264–5, and the court's general practice is to hear those proceedings in open court but with a power in an appropriate case to place limitations or restrictions on that. It may not ordinarily do so in its ‘welfare’ jurisdiction although it may more readily do so in the medical procedure cases within that jurisdiction. Relevantly, State Supreme Courts retain little residual power in this area: see Re Z at 83,265 and, as we understand it, that jurisdiction is normally exercised in open court but with appropriate power to close the court if the circumstances of the individual case justify that.
Last Updated: 6 February 2019