COVID-19 Response

COVID-19 Response

The Mental Health Review Tribunal is deemed an essential service and will continue to function throughout the epidemic. Changes have been introduced to the Mental Health Act (Section 202) to accommodate the reduced resources of the Tribunal during this period. 

Please note that no face-to-face hearings will be scheduled until further notice. All hearings will be conducted via audio-visual link up. The MHRT is constantly reviewing technology and other factors in consultation with our stakeholders in order to hold as many hearings as possible. 

IMPACT OF COVID-19 ON TRIBUNAL HEARINGS

In response to the pandemic, the Tribunal has made some changes to its hearing processes to help to  prevent the spread of the virus and to  ensure the health and safety of consumers, treating teams, Tribunal members and Tribunal staff.   We also acknowledge that the pandemic is  likely to impact on the way in which consumers engage with their usual supports, including family members, carers and mental health clinicians.

The changes to the Tribunal’s practice and procedure can be found in the Tribunal’s Practice Direction

The Tribunal is committed to undertaking as many of its normal functions as it can to ensure that each consumer’s care and treatment is given in accordance with the Mental Health Act (MHA) and the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act.

The Tribunal will be constantly reviewing the need for these changes and will scale them back as soon as it is safe to do so.

  • All Tribunal hearings will be held by video or phone, rather than face to face.
  • For most Tribunal hearings, members of the Tribunal will be sitting at separate venues.
  • Lawyers will also be participating by video link from a separate location and taking instructions by phone.
  • The Mental Health Advocacy Service (MHAS) may be able to assist you in exercising your rights and can be contacted on 9745-4277.

CIVIL JURISDICTION

  • Mental health inquiries will be heard between 21 and 35 days, after a person is involuntarily detained (rather than 7 – 21 days).
  • Reviews of Involuntary Patients under s. 37(1(b) and (c) of the MHA have been temporarily suspended, unless they fall within the exceptions in the Practice Direction. 
  • Voluntary patient reviews under s 9 of the MHA have been temporarily suspended. 
  • Existing CTOs may be extended for 3 months without a hearing. *
  • Mental health inquiries may be adjourned for up to 28 days (rather than 14 days).

What does this mean for consumers under the Mental Health Act?

These changes do not affect

  • The treating team’s ongoing obligation to discharge you from the mental health facility if you are no longer mentally ill or mentally disordered.
  • Your right to appeal to the Tribunal for discharge if that has been refused by the  mental health facility. 
  • The Director’s obligation (of  the community mental health service)  to revoke the CTO if of the view that you would not continue to benefit from the order.
  • Your right to seek a variation or revocation of a CTO, if there has been a change in circumstances or new information since the making of the order.

What does this mean for Treating Teams working under the Mental Health Act?

* Recent  amendments to the MHA  that give the Tribunal a discretion to  extend CTOs, adjourn mental health inquiries for up to 28 days and conduct  hearings by telephone,  may only be utilised  if the  Tribunal  ‘considers that it is necessary to do so because of the COVID-19 pandemic’.   

This means that if treating teams consider that it is necessary for the Tribunal to exercise its discretion, they should notify the Tribunal of the reasons that relate to the pandemic.

Please note that the CTO Extension Hearing Application Form allows you to set out the reasons for the extension.

Similarly, if the pandemic impacts on the Tribunal’s capacity to conduct hearings, it may utilise its discretion to extend a CTO for 3 months where it has received an application for the renewal of an existing CTO.

At present, the Tribunal is continuing to conduct CTO hearings in the usual way and is attempting to conduct video hearings wherever possible. 

This page will be updated if there is any change to this situation.

FORENSIC MATTERS

  • Most forensic reviews will be adjourned for the time being.
  • The Tribunal will continue to list:
    • reviews of correctional patients under s. 57 of the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act
    • applications for Forensic Community Treatment Orders and
    • most fitness hearings.
  • The consumer, their lawyer or the treating team may ask for a forensic review to be listed at any time if there are matters which require a Tribunal order or decision.