Tribunal members are part-time lawyers, psychiatrists, and persons with other qualifications and experience relevant to the role of the Tribunal. The community category generally includes health professionals with mental health experience, who are not currently employed by Queensland Health. It may also include mental health consumers, carers, non-government workers, or Indigenous community members from a wide variety of backgrounds and experience.
A person is eligible for appointment as a member of the tribunal if the person:
- Is a lawyer of at least 5 years standing; or
- Is a psychiatrist; or
- Has other qualifications and experience the Minister for Health considers relevant to exercising the tribunal’s jurisdiction.
The Governor in Council makes appointments on the advice of the Minister for Health and the term of appointment is no longer than three years. Members may seek reappointment at the end of their term.
Tribunal members are recommended on the basis of merit and are required to have specialist knoweldge and skills for working in the mental health jurisdiction. The Tribunal uses written application and interviews to determine recommendations for appointment.
The MHA2016 makes provision for administrative staff of the Tribunal including an Executive Officer and other staff. The administrative staff are appointed under the Public Service Act 2008 (PSA). The President of the Tribunal has all the powers of a chief executive officer under the PSA in relation to staff of the Tribunal.
Constitution of the Tribunal
Each Tribunal panel is composed of between 3 to 5 members, including at least one lawyer, one psychiatrist and one other member who is not a lawyer or a psychiatrist. In some circumstances the panel may be constituted by less than 3 members if the President is satisfied it is in the patient’s best interests and it is appropriate and expedient to do so.
The presiding member for a tribunal hearing constituted by three or more members must be a lawyer. In a one member tribunal the presiding member is the constituting member. Where the tribunal is constituted by two members, the presiding member is decided by the President.
Role of Legal Member
The legal member is the presiding member and has the role of chairing and managing the hearing in a manner conducive to achieving the minimum standards of informality and consumer engagement in the process. The presiding member will advise other members on points of law, and ensure that the patient (or their representative) has an opportunity to put their case and ask questions of participants.
The presiding member is responsible for conducting the “pre-hearing planning” meeting with the other members in each case; meeting the patient and inviting them into the hearing room; introducing the other panel members; explaining the independence of the Tribunal from the hospital; explaining the patient’s right to natural justice; deciding the order of evidence (patient first, or doctor); recording the main statements during the proceedings; making sure all members deliberate after the hearing; writing the decision, and where required, the reasons for the decision, taking into account the contributions from the other members.
Role of the Medical Member
The medical member brings to the Tribunal specialist expertise that can contribute to skillful questioning of professional colleagues to elicit the clinical information that the Tribunal requires. In addition the medical member is responsible for taking an educative role with lay members of the Tribunal with a lesser knowledge of mental health.
The medical member does not have a role in providing a second opinion regarding the psychiatric treatment being provided, nor any role in supervision of mental health teams or quality assurance of the services provided.
Role of the Community Member
The community member is not a lawyer or a psychiatrist, and brings to the Tribunal other knowledge and experience relevant to the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. The community member will contribute knowledge of mental illness, mental health services, patient rights, and community expectations to the consideration of the patient’s mental state and psychiatric history, social circumstances, and response to treatment and willingness to continue treatment. The community member will use skillful questioning to pursue those issues that are of interest to the general community, particularly those associated with safeguarding the rights of the patient and others including the determination of unacceptable risk.
Conduct of the Tribunal Panel
The Tribunal panel must perform its functions in a manner that is fair, just, economical, informal and timely. The right of all persons to the same basic human rights must be recognised and taken into account.
The Act gives the following procedural directives in relation to panel hearings:
- the Tribunal panel must observe natural justice; and
- act as quickly, and with as little formality and technicality, as is consistent with a fair and proper consideration of the issues before it; and
- is not bound by the rules of evidence; and
- may inform itself on a matter in a way it considers appropriate; and
- may decide the procedures to be followed for the panel hearing.