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Mental Health Tribunals

Volume 487: debated on Tuesday 3 February 2009

5. What recent discussions he has had with the chief executive of the Tribunals Service on the operation of mental health tribunals. (253525)

The chief executive of the Tribunals Service has regular meetings with Ministers to discuss the service and its performance, including that of mental health tribunals.

Mental health tribunals are important for dispensing justice, but a constituent queries with me their ability also to operate impartially. If patients agree that they are psychotic, they are so judged. If they disagree, they are said to have no insight into their condition and are found to be psychotic. What consideration have the Government given to reviewing the whole process to address concerns that patients subject to a tribunal do not have guaranteed access to specialist legal advice, and that the panel composition militates against objective assessment of the facts of each case?

I am concerned about the example that my hon. Friend gives. If he wishes to come to see me to discuss it, I will be more than happy to do so. There are, however, two things that I would say to him. There is legal representation available for mental health proceedings at the first-tier tribunal, and there is also legal aid available at the upper tribunal. There are about 1,100 members of the tribunal, and they are split more or less evenly across the three disciplines that they are meant to represent.