On 23 March, the government put significant restrictions in place due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This resulted in the country being place on ‘lockdown’. In the wake of the pandemic, emergency laws have been passed including temporary measures which change the Mental Health Act and the tribunal process.
It is important to note that these changes are separate to the government’s ongoing review of the Mental Health Act. The government will still need to review the Mental Health Act when the emergency measures are no longer required.
As a result of government restrictions on public gatherings and increased social distancing measures, there has been changes to the way court and tribunal hearings are heard. From 23 March 2020, there was a move for all tribunal hearings to be heard via telephone conference, as opposed to having a face-to-face hearing. This remains the current situation. However, there are plans in place for tribunals to be heard via video conference hearings.
All applications made to the tribunal after 23 March 2020, will be heard by a single judge as opposed to a full tribunal panel. The judge will be able to contact a Medical Member or a Specialist Lay member, if they feel this is necessary during the hearing. However, during the tribunal, the Medical Member and Specialist Lay Member will not be actively involved. All Patients are still encouraged to attend their tribunal via telephone hearing and engage in the tribunal process in the usual manner as they would in a face-to-face hearing. Assistance from the nursing team will be available when dialing into the conference.
We are open as usual to assist clients who want to appeal to the Mental Health Tribunal. If you would like to speak to someone from our team, please contact us on 01912752626. We are currently unable to complete client visits to hospital wards but we have all of the resources to take instructions via telephone and complete your case remotely.
Blog by Sarah Purkis, Trainee Solicitor