THE PRACTICE of mental health review tribunals of fixing the hearing dates for applications for discharge by patients detained under section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983 eight weeks after the date of the application was unlawful.
The Court of Appeal allowed the applicant's appeal against the dismissal of his application for judicial review of the practice of listing cases before a mental health appeal tribunal eight weeks after the application for discharge had been made.
The applicant suffered from schizophrenia, and was compulsorily detained in hospital under section 3 of the Mental Health Act 1983. He applied to a mental health review tribunal for discharge, and was given a hearing date eight weeks from the date of his application.
Whilst there was no statutory provision for a time limit in which applications of patients detained under section 3 had to be heard, there was a policy under which such applications had to be heard within eight weeks. There was, however, a current practice under which applications were routinely fixed for hearing eight weeks after the date of the application.
The applicant applied for judicial review of that practice, on the basis that a delay of eight weeks could not satisfy the requirement in article 5(4) of the European Convention on Human Rights that proceedings should result in the lawfulness of detention being determined "speedily". He sought a declaration to that effect.
Before the hearing of his application for judicial review, the applicant was discharged from hospital, but the judge decided nonetheless to hear his application because it raised a point of general public importance, and because the point might prove of more than academic interest to the applicant, as there was at least a risk that he might himself again be detained under the 1983 Act in the future. …