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Access to documents before Tribunal hearings

The Tribunal has issued a Practice Note on access to documents available here.

To ensure that Mental Health Tribunal hearings are fair, it is important that patients have the opportunity to prepare for their hearing. To do this, patients need to know what the treating team says about them in the report and other documents and what the treating team will say at the hearing. For this reason, the Mental Health Act states that designated mental health services must give patients access to documents ‘in connection with’ their proceeding at least 48 hours before the hearing. However there is an exception to the rule that the service must give the patient access to all documents in connection with the proceeding. The exception is that the authorised psychiatrist may ask the Tribunal to decide that the patient cannot see a particular document or documents because disclosing the document(s) may cause serious harm to the patient or another person.

Patients’ right to access documents and applications to deny access to documents raise complex issues and have been the source of confusion and uncertainty in the past. This Practice Note explains what documents must be provided to the patient (in particular, what is meant by documents ‘in connection with’ the proceeding); when and how services need to make an application to deny access to documents; and Tribunal procedures when hearing an application to deny access to documents.

Related resources designed to present the same information in a more accessible format are:

  • Your right to access documents before your Tribunal hearing (a one-page summary directed to consumers and carers) available here
  • Access to documents in Mental Health Tribunal hearings – Overview and Frequently Asked Questions (including flow charts) available here.