Jerome Taylor: A legal milestone as tribunal doors opened for first time

 

Share

The hallways outside the tribunal courts off Chancery Lane are a busy place, teeming with lawyers. The bread and butter of Field House is asylum tribunals. But yesterday Field House was also the location for a legal milestone in a separate, and usually much more closed, area of British law.

In Court One, the first ever mental health tribunal to be heard in public was under way. The hearing, which continues today, has been called to decide whether Albert Haines, a 52-year-old inmate at Broadmoor Hospital, should be released.

As the three judges filed into the room, Mr Haines sat motionless on the front bench, next to his lawyer Kate Luscombe. Two burly males nurses from Broadmoor, their belts equipped with restraining equipment, sat behind, struggling to contain the odd yawn.

Across the UK more than 25,000 tribunal decisions are made every year and, until now, every single one has been made behind closed doors. There is usually good reason for this. In order to reach their conclusions, tribunal judges must seek testimony and statements from a patient's doctors. The consensus is that such details are confidential. But what happens when someone who is detained under the Mental Health Act – but retains the capacity to make their own decisions about their life – chooses to waive that confidentiality? Two years ago Mr Haines began a legal campaign to do just that. Broadmoor resisted, fearing that an open tribunal would place undue stress on their patient and would be prohibitively expensive.

The case went to the Upper Tribunal who ruled in February that an open hearing should take place. They even insisted that Mr Haines should be able to attend the hearing in person and that members of the public should also be allowed in. The result is a legal first where members of the public finally get a glimpse of how tribunals make their difficult and often controversial decisions.

It is unlikely, however, that many will follow in Mr Haines's footsteps. In the past seven years there have only been 10 applications for an open tribunal and only one was granted. That request was later withdrawn. But the precedent has now been set. Should someone want an open hearing – and have the capacity to make that decision – there is no legal reason why it should not now be granted.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

After Savile, we must devote our energies to stopping the child abuse taking place now

Mary Dejevsky
A ‘hugely irritated’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind on his way home from Parliament on Monday  

Before rushing to criticise Malcolm Rifkind, do you know how much being an MP can cost?

Isabel Hardman
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower