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Mental Health Law Online

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  • 23/01/21: Case ("Personally seen" and "personally examined" require physical presence). Devon Partnership NHS Trust v SSHSC [2021] EWHC 101 (Admin)In this case the Trust sought declarations that the s12 requirement that a medical practitioner must have "personally examined" a patient before completing a medical recommendation and the s11 requirement that an AMHP must have "personally seen" the patient before making an application (both requirements being in relation to s2, 3, 4 and 7) could be met by remote means, as suggested in NHS, 'Legal guidance for mental health, learning disability and autism, and specialised commissioning services supporting people of all ages during the coronavirus pandemic' (v2, 19/5/20). (1) The High Court agreed to give an advisory opinion on statutory construction in this exceptional case, as there was a real (not hypothetical or academic) question, the Trust had a real interest in it, and the court had heard proper argument. (2) The High Court decided that both phrases require the physical attendance of the person in question on the patient, because of the following six considerations: (a) in this country, powers to deprive people of their liberty are generally exercised by judges and where, exceptionally, statute authorises administrative detention the powers are to be construed particularly strictly; (b) splitting up the compound phrases into individual words fails to capture their true import as understood when enacted; (c) Parliament understood the medical examination as necessarily involving physical presence (confirmed by the word "visiting" used elsewhere, and the fact that psychiatric assessment may involve a multi-sensory assessment); (d) it is not appropriate to apply an "updating construction", as the words were intended to be restrictive and circumscribed, and when enacted were understood as connoting physical presence; (e) medical examinations should ideally be carried out face-to-face (the Code of Practice and guidance both state this is preferable), and it is for Parliament to weigh up the competing interests (namely the need to ensure that administrative deprivations of liberty are properly founded on objective evidence and the need to maintain the system of MHA detention given the exigencies of the pandemic); (f) interpretation by the court would be applicable immediately and may remain in force for some time after the end of the current pandemic, but modification by Parliament could involve ongoing judgement on whether to bring them into force and whether to make them time limited.
  • 19/01/21: Ordinary residence and s117. DHSC, 'Statutory guidance: DHSC's position on the determination of ordinary residence disputes pending the outcome of the Worcestershire case' (24/6/20) — (1) The DHSC position, which is subject to ongoing proceedings in R (Worcestershire CC) v SSHSC, is that if a patient is detained in Area 1, then provided with accommodation under s117 in Area 2, then detained in Area 2: (a) the patient remains ordinarily resident in Area 1, applying R (Cornwall Council v SSH [2015] UKSC 46; (b) in the alternative, "immediately before being detained" in s117 means "immediately before being first detained"; (c) in the further alternative, Area 1's duties may continue throughout the second detention. (2) Ordinary residence disputes must still be referred in the usual timeframe but, absent exceptional circumstances, cases which raise similar issues as the Worcestershire case will be stayed. (3) The current position contradicts the Care and Support statutory guidance, which will be updated when the court case has been decided.
  • 16/01/21: Law Society MHT practice note. Law Society, 'Practice note: Representation before mental health tribunals' (12/12/19) — This practice note contains information under the following headings: (1) Introduction; (2) The right to legal advice and representation before the tribunal; (3) Communication with the client; (4) Taking instructions; (5) Your duties towards your client; (6) Good tribunal practice; (7) Representing children and young people before the tribunal; (8) More information. The changes mainly arise from the the SRA Handbook being replaced by the SRA Standards and Regulations on 25/11/19. A tracked changes version is available on MHLO.