Cartwright King’s Deborah Robinson’s Success in Mental Health Case

Cartwright Kings Deborah Robinson Victory in Mental Health Case
Legally reviewed by: Tim Lumb Updated: In: Mental Health Law

Remote Examinations under The Mental Health Act 1983

Garden Court counsel instructed by Deborah Robinson successfully opposed a Hospital Trust claim that orders permitting compulsory treatment can be implemented and extended by remote examinations.

In Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust v Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and Others, Derbyshire NHS Foundation Trust brought proceedings under CPR Part 8 seeking declarations stating that according to the Mental Health Act 1983 a responsible clinician: 

  • does not have to conduct a face-to face examination before making a community treatment order;
  • does not have to conduct a face-to-face examination before extending a community treatment order; and
  • does not have to conduct a face-to-face examination for renewing orders related to treatment, guardianship, or patients subject to unrestricted hospital orders.

During legal proceedings, the Trust relied on evidence provided by its Assistant Legal Director. The Trust also relied on the argument that permitting virtual assessments is in the best interest of patients.

Deborah Robinson Challenges Community Treatment Order Extension Protocol During Pandemic

Before the proceedings started, during the covid pandemic, “PQR” who was subject to a community treatment order, had his community treatment order extended. His responsible clinician made a phone call to accomplish this. During the Mental Health Tribunal proceedings, his solicitor, Cartwright King’s Deborah Robinson (who was acting on behalf of PQR during these proceedings) asserted that extending a community treatment order following a phone call examination, did not comply with requirements under the Mental Health Act 1983 whereby the responsible clinician examines the patient before extending the order.  

Consequently, Deborah raised the issue with the Trust’s lawyers and the Tribunal. The First-tier Tribunal did not consider that it had jurisdiction to consider the issue and dismissed that argument when the Trust’s lawyers made submissions similar to those pursued in the Part 8 claim. 

Deborah instructed Garden Court’s Stephen Simblet KC and Ollie Persey to act in an appeal to the Upper Tribunal and the parallel Part 8 proceedings.

The Upper Tribunal agreed that the First-tier Tribunal did not have jurisdiction to consider the issue.

Derbyshire Trust’s Part 8 Claim Draws PQR, Mind, and Legal Advocates into Proceedings

The Derbyshire Trust issued its Part 8 claim to seek the declarations above, and PQR was added to the claim as an Interested Party.

Landmark Decision: Mr Justice Lane Rejects Trust’s Claims, Emphasising Parliamentary Intent in Mental Health Act Assessments

Mr. Justice Lane handed down a judgment on December 14, 2023.The judgement dismissed the Trust’s claim and refused to make the declarations sought. 

Mr Justice Lane stated “Parliament requires the highest degree of assurance that the examination in question will be effective as it can be. There is no mandate for assuming that…. Parliament intended to leave the matter to be determined by the responsible clinician” and that it was not appropriate to seek declarations of this sort divorced from a factual context.

To conclude, although Mr Justice Lane did not directly address the consequences of the judgment in relation to PQR, there was still a positive outcome for PQR. The Trust discharged his Community Treatment Order when the court handed down its judgment.

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All advice is correct at time of publication.