R (OK) v FTT [2017] UKUT 22 (AAC), [2017] MHLO 3

The First-tier Tribunal's decision to strike out a case for want of jurisdiction (on the basis that the patient had lacked capacity to make the application) was upheld in these judicial review proceedings. (1) The solicitor had applied to the Tribunal under s66 in relation to a patient detained under s3. She then sought to be appointed under Tribunal rule 11(7)(b) as the client lacked capacity to represent himself. The tribunal panel found that "[i]t does not appear that the patient has the capacity to authorise anyone to make an application on his behalf and has not done so" and adjourned the hearing to allow the patient’s solicitors "to consider whether they agree that the application is invalid or provide reasons why they consider that it is valid." (2) The tribunal had not mentioned Tribunal rule 8 (Striking out a party’s case), but was in effect making a decision under it: the rule required the Tribunal to strike out proceedings where it "does not have jurisdiction", but only after "giving the applicant an opportunity to make representations in relation to the proposed striking out". (3) The solicitor accepted that the patient had lacked capacity to make the application, but argued: (a) that R (MH) v Secretary of State for the Department of Health [2005] UKHL 60 (in which the House of Lords had decided that the MHA scheme was Convention compliant) was distinguishable, as MH related to section 2 where different timescales applied; and, therefore, (b) that s66 (Applications to tribunals), in order to be Convention compliant, should be read as applying to a patient "with the assistance of a litigation friend if needed". (4) The First-tier Tribunal judge's subsequent decision "that the matter may be closed as an invalid application", which was effectively a rule 8 strike-out decision, was the decision considered by the Upper Tribunal. (5) The challenge was made by way of judicial review, but there was a right of appeal so that route would have been more appropriate. (6) UTJ Jacobs, dismissing the JR application, decided that MH could not be distinguished (the timescales in the MH case were not significant, still less decisive) and there was no Convention breach: any apparent gap in the Tribunal rules (in the protection of a patient's right to bring his case to the Tribunal) disappeared when the various duties and powers under those rules, the Mental Health Act 1983 and the Mental Capacity Act 2005 are considered as a package. In conclusion, he stated that "[a]n application for the Secretary of State to refer his case could have been made under section 67 and, if that was refused, the patient could have had recourse to judicial review". (6) The Upper Tribunal decision makes no reference to the later ECHR decision in the MH case (MH v UK 11577/06 [2013] ECHR 1008, [2013] MHLO 94), which found that, during part of MH's detention, neither the Secretary of State referral process nor habeas corpus were adequate remedies and that there had been a breach of Article 5(4).

External link

BAILII