Presentation on theme: "The right to a fair hearing before the Mental Health Review Board – what it means and how to ensure it Catherine Leslie Lawyer / Pro Bono Coordinator Mental."— Presentation transcript:
The right to a fair hearing before the Mental Health Review Board – what it means and how to ensure it Catherine Leslie Lawyer / Pro Bono Coordinator Mental Health Legal Centre
The right to a fair hearing before the Mental Health Review Board Access to justice Equality before the law Right to fair hearing is a fundamental human right Limitations must be strictly necessary and have minimal impairment possible UN Human Rights Committee GC 32
What does it mean to have a fair hearing? Section 24 Charter – Right to a fair hearing: –court/tribunal be competent, independent and impartial –hearing must be fair –hearing must be public unless in best interests of child or permitted by law
What does it mean to have a fair hearing? Plus, at international law, rights to: -equal access to, and equality before, the courts -hearing without undue delay -legal advice and representation -procedural fairness -have free assistance of interpreter where necessary
Focus on 4 aspects to this right 1.Independent and impartial decision-maker 2.Hearing without undue delay – expeditious 3.Legal representation 4.Procedural fairness
1. MHRB – a competent, independent and impartial tribunal? Independence and impartiality – look at how the MHRB is made up -Are the Board Members independent from the person appearing? Eg. If person has consulted the psychiatrist member in the past.
Are the Board Members independent from the AMHS? Ask – would a fair-minded and independent observer perceive that there was any real possibility of bias? Eg. psychiatrist employed by same hospital
Is the MHRB independent from the executive/ government? Eg. Should the MHRB be part of DHS – this is the same government portfolio that employs the clinicians whose decisions the Board reviews
MHRB – a competent, independent and impartial tribunal? Is the MHRB competent? Public hearing – closed hearings before MHRB justified by competing right to privacy
2. Right to an expeditious hearing Delays which cannot be justified by complexity of case or behaviour of parties are not compatible with right to fair hearing Lack of resources & chronic under- funding cannot be excuse for unreasonable delays Consider conduct and diligence of tribunal
8-week review – Justice delayed is justice denied “… we render insignificant the freedoms in issue, and pay lip service to the notion that wherever possible people with a mental illness should enjoy the same rights as other member of the community, if most people who become involuntary patients are not reviewed” Vic. Law Reform Commissioner, Prof Neil Rees
3. Right to legal representation Why is legal representation important? Right to participate and be heard Legal assistance access and participation < 10% representation
Rights v Reality No requirement for provision of legal aid in civil proceedings (cf. criminal proceedings) Serious consequences – personal liberty Complex cases Unable to obtain fair hearing without legal representation – impact of illness and / or medication European case suggests legal assistance “should” be provided
4. Procedural fairness – “equality of arms” MHRB duty under Mental Health Act s 24 Access to files and applications for non- disclosure
Applications for non-disclosure s 26(8) MHA 3 situations where material may be excluded: (a)Confidential information (privacy purpose) (b)Personal information about 3 rd party (privacy purpose) (c)Serious risk of harm to person or someone else (health purpose)
Applications for non-disclosure s 26(8) MHA Consider: Reasons for excluding material -reasonable and proportionate? -right to privacy Impact of legal representation? Should Board exercise discretion to view material itself?
Other examples of possible breaches of procedural fairness Hearings via telephone or videoconference - eg. if MHRB hears evidence from Dr and person separately Interpreter Person cannot attend – detrimental to health Consider facts & reasonable limitations
MHRB may have additional obligations where person unrepresented -Eg. explain the process, explain the issues – 5 criteria, explain person’s rights.
Additional rights the MHRB must consider Right to liberty and security –Burden of proof – person affected should not have to disprove the lawfulness of detention Right to humane treatment when deprived of liberty –Inpatient setting –Board must treat persons appearing before it with dignity and respect
If MHA is inconsistent with human rights? Doesn’t invalidate MHA MHRB can refer matter to Supreme Court Charter - important advocacy tool