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Overriding objective (MHT)

This is a new innovation in the Tribunal rules, which is borrowed from the Civil Procedure Rules. It is worth setting out rule 2 in full, as it is a useful tool for representatives when seeking directions etc:

Overriding objective and parties’ obligation to co-operate with the Tribunal 2.—(1) The overriding objective of these Rules is to enable the Tribunal to deal with cases fairly and justly.

(2) Dealing with a case fairly and justly includes—

(a) dealing with the case in ways which are proportionate to the importance of the case, the complexity of the issues, the anticipated costs and the resources of the parties;
(b) avoiding unnecessary formality and seeking flexibility in the proceedings;
(c) ensuring, so far as practicable, that the parties are able to participate fully in the proceedings;
(d) using any special expertise of the Tribunal effectively; and
(e) avoiding delay, so far as compatible with proper consideration of the issues.

(3) The Tribunal must seek to give effect to the overriding objective when it—

(a) exercises any power under these Rules; or
(b) interprets any rule or practice direction.

(4) Parties must—

(a) help the Tribunal to further the overriding objective; and
(b) co-operate with the Tribunal generally.

The overriding objective was discussed in the first reported Upper Tribunal decision, Dorset Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust v MH [2009] UKUT 4 (AAC)M at [13]:

That requires parties to cooperate and liaise with each other concerning procedural matters, with a view to agreeing a procedural course promptly where they are able to do so, before making any application to the tribunal. This is particularly to be expected where parties have legal representation. … We stress that, in the context of an urgent application in the mental health jurisdiction, this liaison between the parties must not lead to any [avoidable] delay.

Paragraph (4) does not appear in the Welsh Rules.

The overriding objective featured in Re A [2020] MHLO 14 (FTT), a case in which the patient successful argued for an all-female panel as the her mental state meant that she could only attend the hearing or pre-hearing medical examination if the panel were all female.

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