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Legal aid at mental health tribunals

Since the 1st November 2006, if a person is admitted to hospital against their will (involuntary patient), they are entitled to have a mental health tribunal within 21 days of their admission. 

The Mental Health Commission is responsible for establishing these tribunals.

A mental health tribunal consists of three people, as follows:

  • A legal member (a barrister or solicitor who will act as Chairman)
  • A lay person
  • A consultant psychiatrist

The tribunal will listen to the facts surrounding the case, and make sure that a person is only detained in hospital in keeping with the law. Patients have the right to be represented at the mental health tribunal by a legal representative who is appointed by the Mental Health Commission. They will also arrange for an independent medical examination to be carried out by a Consultant Psychiatrist. Patients have the right to attend their tribunal if they want to.

The function of the mental health tribunal is to either revoke or affirm an admission or renewal order. Mental health tribunals can also consider proposed transfers to the Central Mental Hospital and proposals related to the use of psycho-surgery.

The Assisted Decision Making (Capacity) Act 2015 was signed into law on 30th December 2015. This created a new assisted-decision making system for people who do not have the capacity to take decisions. It also provides for the transfer to the Legal Aid Board of responsibility for legal aid for representation at mental health tribunals. This Act is subject to a commencement order and once this Order has been made the Legal Aid Board will becomes responsible for providing legal aid at mental health tribunals.

If you have a query about providing legal aid at mental health tribunals, contact the Mental Health Commission.