Tribunals are independent judicial panels that hear applications and references for people detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended by the Mental Health Act 2007).
Tribunals are held to find out whether a person should continue to be detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 or, in some cases, what conditions should apply to their discharge.
They usually take place at the hospital / inpatient unit where the service user is detained.
What can tribunals do?
Tribunals have the power to:
- Discharge someone from hospital.
- Recommend a leave of absence.
- Recommend supervised community treatment, decide on delayed discharge, conditional discharge or transfer to another hospital.
- Reconvene if their recommendations are not met by the medical team.
Who can apply for a tribunal?
The service user can apply for a tribunal through their solicitor or their nearest relative.
Service users detained under Section 37 will be automatically entitled to a Tribunal every six months.
If a service user has not had their detention reviewed in the last three years they will automatically be referred for a Tribunal.
Who’s involved in a tribunal?
The members of tribunals are appointed by the Lord Chancellor. They are independent from the Trust.
All tribunals must have:
- A legal member (usually a solicitor or a barrister) The legal member will be the chairperson.
- A doctor (usually a psychiatrist).
- A lay member with some mental health experience.
How to I appeal against a tribunal decision?
The new Mental Health Act 2007 allows a Tribunal decision to be appealed to the Upper Tribunal rather than an appellate court as was the case previously. You can only appeal with permission from the tribunal being appealed from or the Upper Tribunal. The grounds of appeal must relate to a point of law.
Evidence for the Tribunal
To understand the circumstances for or against detention, a medical report, nursing report and a social circumstances report must be submitted to the tribunal before the hearing.
The medical member of the tribunal will interview the service user and look at their medical notes. In some circumstances the Tribunal may arrange for an independent psychiatric report to be prepared.
The service user’s solicitor may also wish to get an independent psychiatric report.
The service user should see all the reports, except for anything that may adversely affect them, which should be included in a confidential report. Reasons must be given about why information should be kept confidential.
Tribunals and mentally disordered offenders (forensic patients)
There are slightly different rules relating to patients detained in hospital under Section 37/41 of the Mental Health Act.
Section 37/41 means that a person has been detained in hospital for treatment at direction of the criminal courts and it has been agreed that there should be a further restrictions on when the patient can be discharged because ‘it is necessary for the protection of the public from serious harm’.
Section 37/41 tends to be used in cases when the person has been charged with a serious criminal offence.
Patients detained under Section 37/41 can only be discharged with the agreement of the Secretary of State for Justice or by a tribunal. Their doctor cannot discharge them if the Secretary of State for Justice does not agree, nor can they be discharged by Trust managers or by their nearest relative.
Patients detained under Section 37/41 have the right to apply to the tribunal and are entitled to be legally represented at the hearing.