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Mental Health Review Tribunals (MHRTs) were established under the Mental Health Act (MHA) 1959 as one of the 'main safeguards against improper admission under compulsory powers’ and unduly protracted detention’. The statutory provisions were tightened in the 1983 MHA in an attempt to provide a better safeguard for the rights of patients (MHA Commission, 1985).
This study set out to examine how MHRTs make decisions about whether or not to discharge patients detained under sections 2 and 3 of the Mental Health Act (1983). The research identified significant differences in operation between tribunals from the pre-hearing meeting through to the deliberation. Such was the degree of variation that questions must be raised about the extent to which tribunals in general can be said to provide a safeguard against unduly protracted detention in hospital. Four factors were found to constrain the fairness of tribunal decision-making. These were:-