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 That request was later withdrawn.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

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to adapt and survive

Nigel Edwards
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?