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What Is A Mental Health Tribunal Judge And Panel?

4 min read
29 November 2018

A Mental Health Tribunal is a special type of court, which deals with mental health cases. They will read reports written by your care team and hear your views. Then they will decide if you can go home or not. The Judge is part of the tribunal panel and manages the hearing. Judge Phillip Westcott describes what this means.

My name is Judge Phillip Westcott. I am a tribunal judge and my role is to chair your hearing. I write the decision of the panel, which is sent to the hospital and to your representative (solicitor) after the hearing. All tribunal judges are experienced in dealing with legal issues and some of us – including me - were once solicitors, so have also helped young people put their cases to the tribunals.

My colleagues on the tribunal panel (called a CAMHS panel) are a doctor (a medical member who is a consultant psychiatrist) and a third person who knows a lot about community care – called a Specialist Lay Member. For all tribunal hearings, at least one of us three will have skills in working with young people. That could be the judge who, like me, has worked with young people, or the doctor who has cared for young people, or the Specialist Lay Member might be a social worker.

It is the job of the clinical team to prove why you should remain detained in hospital, by giving us written reports and answering questions at the hearing. We ask legal questions (they are called the statutory criteria) on why you should be detained. You’ll hear words such as ‘mental disorder’, ‘nature and degree’ and ‘appropriate treatment’. We will also discuss your insight – what your opinion is about your illness and treatment.

You’ll see that the panel writes down what the clinical team say in answer to the questions, and what you and your representative say. I spend a lot of time writing or typing on my laptop. This is so I can write the reasons why the panel made the decision that we did at the end of the hearing.

We know it can be very difficult for you to sit still and not interrupt if you think that things are being said about you that you don’t agree with. Do take some paper into the hearing and make notes about what’s being said so you can talk about these with your representative.

This can be a very stressful experience but there are ways you, your team and the tribunal panel can make it easier for you:

  • You will not be on your own at the hearing. You have a legal representative to help you tell the tribunal panel what you want.
  • You can talk to us with your legal representative before your doctor, nurse and care co-ordinator give their views.
  • You can give us written information about what you want.
  • You can come for only part of the hearing.
  • You can have an independent mental health advocate to support you.
  • You can have family members at the hearing.
  • You can ask for a break at any time to talk with your representative.

What you don’t have to do:

  • You don’t have to attend the hearing at all.
  • You don’t have to stay for the whole hearing if you are becoming upset.
  • You don’t have to come back to hear our decision.

Just let us know and we will do our best to make the hearing as fair as possible.

Find help

For more information about sectioning and going into hospital for your mental health, have a look at our guide to inpatient care.

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