The application would go to the First-tier Tribunal (Mental Health) Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended).
They deal with the discharge of people detained (admitted) as patients in a psychiatric hospital (sectioned).
You can apply to the Mental Health Tribunal on behalf of a patient if:
- You are acting as the person’s legal representative.
- You are the patient’s ‘Nearest Relative‘ (a legal term for someone who may not be the next of kin).
The tribunal functions independent of government. The panel will listen to both versions of a dispute or argument before they make a decision about the case.
There are several other reasons for applying to the Mental Health Tribunal. For example, you can make an appeal if you want to:
- Change the conditions placed on your ‘conditional discharge’ from the hospital.
- Change or challenge your community treatment order (CTO) if you do not agree with it.
Note: This help guide focuses on tribunal case appeals in England. The rules on how to apply to the Mental Health Tribunal differ in Scotland and in Wales.
There are different ways of getting admitted (e.g. for assessment or for treatment). It would determine when to apply and the time scale for applying. Your doctor or your lawyer (if you have one) will be able to confirm your date of admission.
The deadline for a first time application is:
- Within fourteen (14) days for ‘section 2’ (admitted for assessment).
- Within six (6) months for ‘section 3’ (admitted for treatment).
It would be best for a ‘restricted patient’ to get legal advice. The deadlines differ for situations where:
- You got transferred from prison.
- You received an order from the Crown Court.
Missing a Deadline
If you miss the deadline you cannot apply to get discharged. Even so, you might be able to apply again at a later date. An example would be reapplying after one year if you got admitted for treatment (section 3).
The tribunal will take another look at the case again after a certain period of time by automatic process. Even so, the period of time for a ‘referral’ would depend on the particular case:
- If three (3) years have passed since the tribunal last gave you a hearing.
- If you did not get a hearing in the first six (6) months of your detention.
Getting Expert Help and Advice
As a rule, being a patient means you would qualify for legal aid to help cover the costs. Further information and advice is also available from:
Apply to the tribunal
You must use Form T110: Application to First-tier Tribunal (Mental Health) Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended). After downloading the form, you must fill in all the details regarding:
- The reason for applying (e.g. to get discharge after being admitted for assessment or treatment).
- The full name and date of birth of the patient and the contact details for the ‘Nearest Relative’ (if applicable).
- The date of the section, admission, or order, and the hospital and care coordinator involved in the case.
- Contact details of the lawyer (if there is one) and whether you will need an interpreter.
Where to Send the Application Form
You can email the notice of appeal form or send it by postal methods to HM Courts and Tribunals Service. You will find all the contact details written on the form.
If you have difficulties filling in the form you can contact the tribunal by telephone or by email. Be aware that the helpline staff are unable to offer any legal advice.
After Sending an Appeal
The tribunal will inform you once they have received your application. They will also provide some information on your rights to legal representation.
In most cases, the ‘Nearest Relative’ will also learn the date of the hearing. They will be able to attend providing you do not object to it.
You will receive copies of reports at a date closer to the time of the hearing. So, you will be able to check that the information is correct and prepare any questions that you may want to ask.
The actual date of the hearing will vary according to each situation. As a rule, you will get a hearing within:
- Seven (7) days of applying (if admitted for assessment).
- Two (2) months (if admitted for treatment).
- Four (4) months (if you received an order from the Crown Court or got transferred from prison).
Evidence given by the Tribunal Doctor
Being admitted for assessment means you usually get a pre-hearing examination ‘automatically’. This would not apply if you state that you do not want to have one.
Being admitted for treatment (or as a restricted patient) means you must ask for a pre-hearing examination at least two (2) weeks before the hearing.
The tribunal will request the hospital to provide them with medical reports from:
- Your doctor and the social work and nursing teams responsible for your care.
- The Secretary of State for Justice for a restricted patient (and the social supervisor if you live in the community on conditional discharge).
Withdrawing an Application
You must write to the tribunal without delay if you choose not to continue with the application. The tribunal decides whether to accept a withdrawal (or not).
Note: You cannot withdraw a case that was ‘automatically’ referred to the tribunal. But, you can choose not to attend the hearing.
What Happens at a Tribunal Hearing
As a rule, they will hold the tribunal at the hospital that admitted you. But, a person on conditional discharge may have it held at the hospital where the clinician works.
There is no requirement for you to attend the hearing. But, you can choose to take a legal representative and a relative if you go. The representative can also arrange for witnesses or experts to be there as well.
Hearings are almost always held in private and the people in attendance will be:
- The patient.
- Three (3) tribunal members (i.e. a judge, a tribunal doctor, and mental health expert).
- The patient’s hospital doctor, ward nurse, and social worker.
The hospital doctor, the nurse, and the social worker will give most of the evidence needed. But, you can also give your own evidence and ask any relevant questions.
During the Mental Health Tribunal the panel will also review:
- The pre-hearing examination from the tribunal doctor (if applicable).
- An independent psychiatric report (if a legal representative asked for one).
Note: Other people can make a victim representation to the Mental Health Tribunal for certain conditions (e.g. if you committed a serious offence). It happens most often if the tribunal is planning your discharge.
Claiming Expenses for Attending a Hearing
In some cases, you will be able to claim expenses for going to the tribunal hearing. You should be able to claim back some money for:
- Food and drink (if away for 5 hours or longer)
- Loss of earnings
- Travel costs
The Tribunal Decision
As a rule, the tribunal decides whether to discharge a patient (or not) at the end of the hearing. So, you will get the decision on the same day. You will also receive full written reasons from the tribunal with seven (7) days of the hearing.
A Mental Health Tribunal can:
- Order the release of a patient.
- Make a recommendation to transfer a patient to a different hospital.
- Ask the patient’s doctor to consider the person for treatment in the community.
- Recommend that a patient can leave the hospital for certain periods of time. The purpose would be to see whether the person is ready for living in the community.
Note: The tribunal does not have the authority to change the treatment for a patient (e.g. their medication).
Making an Appeal
What happens if you lose a case at the Mental Health Tribunal in the United Kingdom? If that happens, you can:
- Ask the tribunal to cancel the decision altogether. This must take place within 28 days of getting the written decision.
- Ask the tribunal for permission to appeal to a higher tribunal (the ‘Upper Tribunal’).
Ask the Tribunal to Cancel a Decision
The tribunal will tell you how to get a decision ‘set aside’ (cancelled). You must believe there was a mistake in the process. An example would be not attending the hearing because no one informed you about it.
You might get a new hearing if the tribunal decides to cancel the decision. You can contact Citizens Advice if you need further advice or help.
Making an Appeal to the Upper Tribunal
If you believe there was a legal mistake you can ask them for permission to appeal to the Upper Tribunal. Typical examples would be if the tribunal:
- Failed to apply the correct law or wrongly interpreted the law.
- Failed to follow the correct procedures for a Mental Health Tribunal.
- Had insufficient evidence (or none at all) to support the decision.
You would need to use Form P10: Application for permission to appeal (Rule 46). The return address is written on the form. A second judge would look at the case and decide whether a legal problem exists before arranging another hearing.
Making a Complaint
In fact, you cannot complain about the decision itself. But, you can complain about the tribunal staff and the way in which the hearing took place.
Mental Health Tribunal Legislation
The tribunal makes a decision according to the law and legislation based on:
- Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended by the Mental Health Act 2007)
- Mental Health Act 2007
- Human Rights Act 1998 if the case is about human rights
Tribunals must follow the procedure rules for how tribunal cases are handled in the Health, Education and Social Care Chamber. All doctor statements and reports must be written in line with the current practice directions.