A tribunal in trauma

 The shocking truth about the Mental Health Review Tribunal system,
uncovered by Community Care this week, is made more worrying by the
doubling of its workload which – according to the government’s own
estimates – will be caused if the Mental Health Bill becomes

Moreover, the King’s Fund states this week that government
estimates of numbers who will be subject to community treatment
orders are too low. In other words, the tribunal faces

The Mental Health Bill’s provisions increasing the remit of the
tribunal were clearly designed to allay fears that its other
provisions – including community treatment orders and extensions of
the ability to detain patients – were too draconian.

They are indeed. The power to treat people compulsorily even if
they gain no therapeutic benefit is unacceptable. It legitimises
the use of psychiatric medication purely to control “abnormal” or
“unacceptable” behaviour. Let’s be honest: this has always been the
case. But it has not been enshrined in law. To change that makes
the worst nightmares of service users come true.

The tribunal is already a scandal, effectively meaning that many
people diagnosed with mental illness and deprived of their liberty
have no real means of redress. To allow the system to fall into
confusion shows utter disrespect for those who rely on it. Would
appeals involving any other group be allowed to be arbitrarily
deleted from the database? Sadly, for many users of the mental
health system this indifference will be no surprise.

The government should not wait until it is forced to act by cases
brought under the Human Rights Act. And surely this must be the
final nail in the coffin of the Mental Health Bill, since with the
tribunal in such turmoil any right of appeal in the bill won’t be
worth the paper it’s written on.

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