The Law Society Mental Health Panel and the Mental Health Tribunal


What our clients say…

Thanks for what you’ve done for me. You’re one of the best mental health solicitors, if not the best, in Yorkshire.

JE

Many thanks to your team for getting me back to MSU.

PG

Seven of our mental health lawyers are members of the Law Society’s Mental Health Tribunal Panel. This means their expertise in mental health law has been assessed and accredited by independent experts. They are authorised to advise and represent people who have been detained under the Mental Health Act 1983 before the Mental Health Tribunal.

In England and Wales, when someone is detained, for example in a hospital, because of a mental health problem, they are entitled to free legal representation, paid for by legal aid. This is a right under Article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

To comply with Article 5(4), the legal representation provided has to be ‘effective’: the legal representative must have a suitable level of experience and expertise. Members of the Law Society’s Mental Health Tribunal Panel have demonstrated that they meet the required standard.

How do I get a hearing at the Mental Health Tribunal?

If you’re detained in hospital (sectioned) under the Mental Health Act 1983, and disagree with the decision to ‘section’ you, then you can apply to the Mental Health Tribunal. Our mental health lawyers can advise you on this. The Tribunal also automatically looks at cases that haven’t been reviewed for some time.

There are rules about when you can apply to the Tribunal. Generally, it depends on how you were detained and for how long. Your solicitor can explain how the rules apply to you and tell you whether you can apply.

What happens at a Mental Health Tribunal?

Before a Tribunal hearing, the patient has to be examined by the Tribunal’s doctor who will prepare a report. Solicitors sometimes ask for an independent psychiatrist’s report also.

The Mental Health Tribunal hearing will usually be held at the hospital. Usually, they would be attended by:

  • The patient
  • Three Tribunal members
  • The hospital doctor, nurse and social worker who are working with the patient
  • The patient can also bring a legal representative, e.g. a solicitor, and a relative.
  • Sometimes, a mental health solicitor will arrange for experts or witnesses to speak at the hearing too.

In order to decide the best course of action for the patient, the Tribunal hears evidence. Usually, the patient’s doctor, nurse and social worker will give evidence first. The patient can give evidence too, but they do not have to. Any experts or witnesses invited to the hearing by the patient’s legal representative will also give evidence. The legal representative, or the patient, has the chance to ask questions.

At the end of the hearing, the Mental Health Tribunal will normally make a decision on whether the patient should be discharged (released from hospital). The Tribunal could also make other recommendations including a transfer to a different hospital or for treatment in the community.

What if I lose my Mental Health Tribunal case?

There is the possibility that the Tribunal will not agree the patient should be discharged from hospital. When this happens, it is best to take legal advice. It is possible to ask the Tribunal to look at the decision again. This is an option if there was a problem with the handling of your case, for example if you or your representative were not at the hearing, or if you did not receive important documents about your case. In some situations, the Mental Health Tribunal will reconsider the case.If there was a legal problem with your case, you can ask for permission to appeal to the Upper Tier Tribunal. A mental health solicitor can advise you on this. If you apply for permission to appeal, your case will be looked at by another Judge, who will decide whether there were any legal mistakes, and whether your case should be heard again.

 

Mental Health Law News