SS v Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust  UKUT 258 (AAC)
Adjournment for aftercare evidence At a s3 tribunal the evidence was that the patient had been well enough for discharge for some time, if a suitable robust package of care and support could be provided, but that for bureaucratic and other reasons it had been difficult to discharge him from the PICU ward. That tribunal panel adjourned for further aftercare information but seven weeks later, in similar circumstances, despite some progress, the next panel refused to adjourn again. The patient appealed that refusal, and all three grounds of appeal were successful. (1) This was not a case where aftercare information would have been irrelevant to the decision (AM v West London MH NHS Trust  EWCA Civ 1010,  MHLO 73 distinguished); rather it was a case in which the tribunal should have adjourned owing to "uncertainty as to the putting in place of the after-care arrangements on which satisfaction of the discharge criteria depends" (R (Ashworth) v MHRT; R (H) v Ashworth  EWCA Civ 923 applied). (2) The common law requires that a party should not be disadvantaged by an absence of evidence which is under the control of another party (especially where the party who controls the evidence is a State agency with duties to provide the evidence in relation to an individual whom it is detaining) and his Article 5 rights can only be protected effectively if the tribunal has the information it needs; the decision not to adjourn was procedurally unfair because it deprived SS of the opportunity to mount an effective challenge to his detention. (3) The tribunal relied on the possibility of a further application in the near future, but the periodic right to apply might not be exercised and could not in any event remedy procedural unfairness in the existing proceedings; its decision amounted to an abdication of its role, and rather than avoiding delay it was kicking the can down the road for the next tribunal to deal with. In his concluding remarks the UT judge stated: "The only reasons not to adjourn for aftercare information would be either because it is not relevant because the patient had not reached the stage at which discharge was a realistic prospect, or because there was no realistic prospect of such aftercare information being produced." The case was remitted to the FTT with directions for further evidence.
Thanks to Ben Conroy (Conroys Solicitors) for providing the judgment.