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Adjournment and postponement (MHT)

The Tribunal’s power to adjourn was considered in AM v West London MH NHS Trust [2013] EWCA Civ 1010M. There was relatively little in the social circumstances report about aftercare on discharge, the author did not attend, and the attending social worker could not provide any further relevant information, but the Tribunal refused to adjourn for further information. The Court of Appeal held that it was ‘properly open to the First‑tier Tribunal to conclude that there was no possibility of discharge at that stage, whatever information about aftercare might be provided’.

The reluctance to grant adjournments or postponements now is illustrated in Practice Guidance: Mental Health jurisdiction: Postponements and adjournments following recent changes in listing practice [2014] MHLO 48.

A refusal to adjourn can be appealed (see LB v BMH [2017] MHLO 10 (UT) for an example, in which the Tribunal panel unlawfully refused an adjournment in order to obtain further evidence).

It is only lawful to adjourn in relation to the Tribunal’s statutory powers – it is unlawful to adjourn in relation to an extra-statutory recommendation, or to ‘wait and see’ whether a patient’s condition improves by the next hearing.

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