Going to the Mental Health Tribunal

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Going to the Mental Health Tribunal

The Mental Health Tribunal is not a part of a hospital or clinic. It is an independent tribunal that makes decisions about treatment orders and whether people can receive electroconvulsive treatment (ECT).

Although the tribunal has legal powers, it is not as formal as a court. It has members who are doctors, lawyers and community members.

If you disagree with the decision you can:

What the tribunal does

The Mental Health Tribunal can decide:

  • if you meet the requirements to receive compulsory treatment
  • if you should be on a community treatment order instead of an inpatient treatment order
  • to take you off a temporary, community or inpatient treatment order
  • the length of your treatment order
  • whether or not you meet the requirements for ECT in certain cases.

The tribunal will look at reports of your mental health, your treatment and information about your whole life situation. You have the right to actively take part in the hearing and have your say.

The tribunal does not have to follow rules of evidence and can gather information as it wishes, but must follow legal rules that make the hearing fair. These are called rules of procedural fairness. The tribunal must also conduct hearings as quickly and informally as it can, giving proper consideration to the issues before it. 

The Mental Health Tribunal has guides on procedural fairness and solution-focused hearings.

When the tribunal holds hearings

The Mental Health Tribunal will hold a hearing if:

  • you apply to have your treatment order revoked (cancelled). You can do this at any time, by contacting the tribunal
  • the authorised psychiatrist applies for a treatment order because they believe you meet the criteria, and:
    • your temporary treatment order is about to expire
    • your current treatment order is about to expire.

You will be given written notice of the hearing, telling you the date, time, place and subject of the hearing. If you are on a treatment order, your hearing cannot be adjourned to a date after it is due to expire unless there are exceptional circumstances. The tribunal can extend your order until the new hearing date, but not for more than 10 business days, and can only extend once.

Preparing for a tribunal hearing

If you have a tribunal hearing coming up, you can get advice and support to help you prepare. You also have the right to look at your medical documents at least 48 hours before the hearing. If the psychiatrist gives you a report, they must do so at least 48 hours before the hearing.

The psychiatrist can ask for you not to have access to your documents if they believe this may cause serious harm to you or another person. The tribunal may agree that you not see the documents or may order the mental health service to let you see them.

What happens at the hearing

The three members of the tribunal (a lawyer, psychiatrist or other doctor and community member) will come to your hospital or clinic. It is nearly always a private (not public) hearing. The tribunal will have read the psychiatrist’s report and will ask questions. The hearing will be informal – it is not like going to court.

You do not have to attend the hearing, but if you do you can ask questions and tell the tribunal what you think about the order. You can be represented before the tribunal by someone authorised by you, or by someone appointed by the tribunal.

When the tribunal has looked at all of the information, it will make a decision. You will be told by a member of the tribunal what decision the tribunal has made, and any orders it has made. Any order it makes must be in writing, and must include information about how you can:

  • request a statement of tribunal reasons for decision
  • apply to VCAT for a review, if you wish to.

You will get a copy of the order.

Decisions the tribunal can make

The Mental Health Tribunal decides (by majority) whether a treatment or other order should be made, the type of order and how long it can last for.

Treatment orders can only be made if you meet all of the four criteria for a compulsory treatment order.

The tribunal can make a:

  • community treatment order – you can live in the community while receiving treatment for mental illness. This order can only be made if you are on a temporary treatment order. It lasts for a maximum of 12 months if you are 18 years or older, or an
  • inpatient treatment order – you must be in hospital while receiving treatment for a mental illness. This can only be made if you are on a temporary treatment order. It lasts for a maximum of six months if you are 18 years or older.

If you are under 18, both kinds of treatment orders can only last for a maximum of three months.

It can also make an order for ECT to be given.

If you disagree with the tribunal decision

If the tribunal makes a decision you disagree with, you can:

You can also ask for a statement of reasons (in writing) for the decision. You have 20 business days after the decision to request the statement.

You also have 20 business days from the decision, or from receiving the statement of reasons, to apply to VCAT for a review.

You can ask for legal advice to help you decide what to do.

Get help

Find out how you can get help with mental health and your rights.

More information 

Download our booklet Going to a Mental Health Tribunal hearing.

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