The Mental Health Court was established under the Mental Health Act 2000 and has been operating since 28 February 2002.
The Mental Health Court decides whether a person charged with a criminal offence has a “mental health defence”. That is
- whether the person was of unsound mind at the time of the offence (suffering mental illness or intellectual disability to such a degree as to not be able to be held responsible for their actions) or
- not fit for trial (unable to stand trial because of mental illness or intellectual disability). A person may be found not fit for trial either permanently or not permanently.
The Court may make a forensic order requiring the involuntary treatment for the patient.
The Court also hears appeals against decisions of the Mental Health Review Tribunal. In addition, the Court may investigate the detention of patients in authorised mental health services.
The Mental Health Court is constituted by a Supreme Court judge who may seek advice from two assisting psychiatrists.
The Mental Health Court has replaced the Mental Health Tribunal which performed much the same role under the previous legislation (Mental Health Act 1974).