A hearing is a meeting between the patient, their advocate, lawyer or support person, their doctor (who is treating their mental illness)and other members of their treating team (such as case manager) and the Mental Health Tribunal. It is where decisions are made about a patient’s treatment, and where patients can have their say to the Tribunal.
Where they are held
Hearings are held in designated hearing rooms in the south, north and north west of the states. These are in hospitals where the patient is being treated, a meeting room provided by the Department of Health and Human Services, or the Tribunal’s offices.
Video or teleconferencing can be used to enable people to take part in the hearings where they can’t attend in person.
The Tribunal will send the patient, their doctor and a nominated responsible person a letter with the time and place of the hearing.
Attending the hearing: Patients
The patient can decide whether or not they’ll attend a hearing:
- if they attend, they have their say about their treatment to the Tribunal
- if they don’t attend, the Tribunal may decide on treatment without the patient’s input.
Who else can attend
A patient has the right to be legally represented at hearings. They can:
- arrange their own lawyer, or
- ask the Legal Aid Commission of Tasmania for someone to represent and support them. Call 1300 366 611.
Advocacy Tasmania will call the patient before their hearing to find out if they need support. Its trained advocates can attend the hearing to help patients talk to the Tribunal. Its service is free. Call Advocacy Tasmania on 1800 005 131.
A patient can bring a relative, carer, friend or other support person to the hearing, for support and help putting their views to the Tribunal.
Preparing for the hearing
Before the hearing, the patient should:
- read the application for the treatment order and the treatment plan (available from their doctor)
- show and discuss these papers with the lawyer, advocate or support person who is attending the hearing with them
- thinking about what they want to say and discuss in the hearing.
What happens at the hearing
There is a Tribunal panel of three people:
- a chairperson (who is a lawyer)
- a psychiatrist
- a person with experience in mental health.
The patient’s doctor and other people treating them for their mental illness may also be present (patients should tell the Tribunal if they’re not happy with someone being at their hearing).
Hearings are important meetings, governed by law, but they are not formal. At the hearing:
- the doctor will give the Tribunal information about the patient and their treatment
- the patient (or their lawyer/advocate) can ask questions, discuss the treatment, say if they agree with the treatment plan, and say if the plan causes them and hardship or discomfort
- other people present can share relevant information.
After these discussions, everyone except the Tribunal panel leaves the room while the Tribunal considers the information it has heard.
Then, everyone is called back into the room to hear the Tribunal’s decision and its reasons for making that decision.
Hearings are generally held in private and are not open to the public.
All information provided at the Tribunal hearing is kept confidential, except in extraordinary circumstances.
The Tribunal’s decision
At the hearing, if the Tribunal determines that the patient should be on a treatment order, the patient and other relevant people will be given a copy of that treatment order.
Anyone attending the hearing can ask the Tribunal for a written statement of the reasons for the decision, either at the hearing or within 30 days of the hearing.
Once it has received this request, the Tribunal has 21 days to provide this written statement.
Appealing the decision
Anyone involved in the hearing can appeal the Tribunal’s decision. To do so, they must lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court, within 30 days of the Tribunal:
- making its decision at the hearing, or
- providing the written statement of its reasons.