The general rule is that all hearings are in public (CPR 39.2). However, the court is not required to make special arrangements for accommodating members of the public who wish to attend and, therefore, members of the public have no right to admission if their admission is impracticable. The court may, if appropriate, adjourn the proceedings to a larger room or court in order to make their admission practicable.
A hearing or any part of it may be private, for example if it involves confidential information (including information relating to personal financial matters) and publicity would damage that confidentiality. Other examples are set out in the Part 39A Practice Direction. At the start of a public hearing, or during it, either party may request the court to rule that, thereafter, the hearing should be conducted in private. Any judgment or order given or made in private must, when drawn up, be clearly marked that the court was “sitting in private” (Part 39A Practice Direction (para 1.13)).
No person other than the receiving party, the paying party and any party who has served points of dispute may be heard at the detailed assessment hearing unless the court gives permission (CPR 47.14(5)). As to the rights of audience of persons claiming to represent such parties, see Section 1.
The court will endeavour to keep the hearing as informal as is consistent with the need to see that justice is done to all parties. The parties are limited to the points of dispute and the replies and are not permitted to introduce fresh points unless the court permits them to do so.