On 3/11/08 the Tribunal system changed. In England, the Mental Health Review Tribunal became part of the Health and Social Care Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal. It is properly called the First-tier Tribunal (Mental Health) but in practice is often called the Mental Health Tribunal. In Wales the Tribunal is the Mental Health Review Tribunal for Wales.
The tribunal is the 'court' which convenes at the hospital at which the patient is detained and which determines whether the grounds for detention (or CTO) under the Act continue to exist. The panel consists of three members: the medical member, usually a consultant psychiatrist, who sits on the left; the legal member (a lawyer, often a judge in restricted cases); and a lay member, who sits on the right.
Statistics for listing of hearings
- Debra Whittle, 'Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request –112074' (letter to Lucy Series, 19/6/17). This FOI response includes the following information. Time from receipt to disposal: section 2 (0 weeks 24.5%, 1 week 53.0%, 2 weeks 18.2%, 4 or more weeks 1.9%); restricted (0-3 weeks 8.0%, 4-9 weeks 15.4%, 10-15 weeks 59.6%, 16-18 weeks 5.1%, 19 or more 11.9%); non-restricted (0-3 weeks 22.1%, 4-7 weeks 47.9%, 8-9 weeks 17.5%, 10-12 weeks 6.5%, 13 or more weeks 6.1%). Total number of cases: section 2 (10,617); restricted (3,449); unrestricted (21,065). Median age of case: section 2 (1 week); restricted (10-15 weeks); non-restricted (4-7 weeks).
The Tribunal and Article 5
Article 5(1), with para (1)(e), states:
- Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following cases and in accordance with a procedure prescribed by law:
- (e) the lawful detention of persons for the prevention of the spreading of infectious diseases, of persons of unsound mind, alcoholics or drug addicts or vagrants;
Article 5(4) states:
- Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if the detention is not lawful.
The Tribunal is a 'court' as mentioned in Article 5(4) because it considers the patient's mental state and must discharge if the criteria for detention are no longer met (see s72,s73 and s74). If a Tribunal knows for sure that a person is not detained under the MHA 1983 (or that a Tribunal application is not valid) then it will not hold a hearing, as it does not have jurisdiction. That aside, the Tribunal ignores the underlying lawfulness of the detention as it role is only to consider the the patient's mental state on the day of the hearing: see, for example, R (von Brandenburg) v East London and City MH NHS Trust  UKHL 58 para 9. If it is believed that detention is unlawful and/or in breach of Article 5 then the patient is entitled to apply for judicial review and/or habeas corpus. Most detained patients would not themselves be able to notice that their detention is in breach of Article 5 or otherwise unlawful so good legal advice is necessary; in addition, hospitals scrutinise civil admission papers (see regulation 4 Mental Health (Hospital, Guardianship and Treatment) (England) Regulations 2008 and s15).
- Senior President of Tribunals, 'Senior President of Tribunals' Annual Report' (February 2012). This report contains the following in relation to the mental health jurisdiction: (1) A periodic digest of common errors, arising in 'review' decisions (First-tier appeals on points of law), is issued so that members can 'learn from the experience of colleagues who are faced with difficult legal questions': this digest is available to legal, medical and lay members, but surprisingly not to patients, their representatives or the public. (2) There was a 3% increase in receipt of cases from 2009-10 to 2010-11, mostly due to CTOs, changes in status, and increased use of s2. (3) The 'continuing improvement' and 'excellent progress' by the secretariat, and the duty judge scheme, has led to improved case management and reduced the adjournment rate within two years from 20% to 7%. (4) The AH case on publicity and the RB case on discharge conditions are noted as interesting cases. (5) Use of secure email will be encouraged. (6) Twelve salaried tribunal judges were appointed to the Restricted Patients Panel in 2011.
Older material is available on the following page: Mental Health Tribunal archive
Phil Fennell et al, Mental Health Tribunals: Law, Policy and Practice (Law Society, 2013)·