What is the Mental Health Review Tribunal?
The Tribunal is an independent body established under the Mental Health Act 2000 to protect the rights of people receiving involuntary treatment for mental illness. It provides an independent review, and makes decisions about whether the treatment will be given in hospital or in the community. In making these decisions, the Tribunal must balance the rights of the patient with the rights of others and the protection of the community.
What does the Tribunal do?
The Tribunal automatically reviews Involuntary Treatment Orders (ITO), Forensic Orders (FO) and Fitness for Trial (not permanent) (FFT), and young persons with mental illness who are detained in high security for treatment. The Tribunal also hears applications for involuntary patients to move out of Queensland, and applications to appeal against a decision made at the mental health service not to allow a person to visit a patient. In addition, if a person is not able to consent to treatment and needs electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), the psychiatrist must apply to the Tribunal for approval to give ECT.
What decisions does the Tribunal make?
The Tribunal can:
- Confirm (continue) or revoke (cease) an ITO or FO
- If you are under an ITO, allow you to leave the hospital for short periods (approve limited community treatment)
- change the category of the ITO from inpatient to community (allow you to receive treatment in the community as an outpatient); or community to inpatient (require you to return to hospital for inpatient treatment)
- If you are under an FO, approve the extent to which you may leave the hospital (approve or order limited community treatment including anything from short escorted absences to full community treatment)
- If you are under an FO because you are not fit for trial, find you fit for trial or permanently unfit for trial
- If you are under an ITO or an FO, order your transfer from one authorised mental health service to another
- Approve or refuse a psychiatrist’s application to give ECT
- Approve an involuntary patient to move permanently out of Queensland
What else does the Tribunal do?
- If you are under an FO, the Tribunal may make a Forensic Patient Information Order (allows certain limited information about a forensic patient to be given to the victim of the offence or another concerned person)
- If you FO is ceased, the Tribunal may make a Non-Contact Order (order that you have no contact with the victim of the offence, or a relative or associate of the victim, for two years)
- The Tribunal can make an Examination Order (order you to be examined by an independent psychiatrist for a specified purpose stated in the order)
- The Tribunal can issue an Attendance Notice (requires a person to come to a Tribunal hearing)
Who sits on the Tribunal?
Three members usually sit on each Tribunal panel, although sometimes there may be five members. Urgent cases may be decided by less than three members if it is in the patient’s interests to do so. Each panel must have a lawyer, a psychiatrist or other doctor, and a community member. The community member is an experienced mental health worker or someone with other skills and experience that are relevant to the decisions the Tribunal must make. Members are appointed by the Governor-in-Council for a term of no longer than 3 years. Part-time members are appointed throughout Queensland to enable panels to be constituted in a number of different locations.
How often will my case be reviewed?
- If you are on an ITO, you will have a review within 6 weeks of the order being made and then at least once every 6 months
- If you are on an FO, you will have a review within 6 months of the order being made and then at least once every 6 months
- If you have been found unfit for trial (but not permanently unfit) the Tribunal must review your fitness for trial every 3 months for the first year. After the first year, if you are still not fit for trial, you will have a review every 6 months until you become fit for trial or the charges against you are discontinued. FO and fitness for trial reviews may occur together
- If you are under 17 years old and are detained in a high security unit the Tribunal will review your case within 7 days of admission, and then at least every three months
- You (or someone on your behalf) may apply to the Tribunal to have your case reviewed. There is no limit to the number of times a person may apply.