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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3000..

Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Amendment Bill 2002

Mr Stanhope, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (10.35): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

The Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Amendment Bill 2002 makes a minor amendment to the Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act 1994 in order to clarify a legal issue. For a small group of people, the effect of this amendment will be important because it will ensure that they can effectively exercise their rights to appeal against a decision made by the Mental Health Tribunal under that act.

The Mental Health (Treatment and Care) Act provides for the Mental Health Tribunal to make orders about the treatment, care, control, rehabilitation and protection of people who are mentally dysfunctional or mentally ill. It also provides a right of appeal to the Supreme Court from a decision of the tribunal. It is a standard feature of our system of justice that people should have an opportunity to appeal against first instance decisions that affect their rights. People who are affected by orders of the Mental Health Tribunal are entitled to appeal against those orders.

In some cases, though, treatment ordered by the Mental Health Tribunal may be started before the person concerned can have an appeal against that order heard in the court. If the person does not want to have the treatment ordered and believes that the tribunal was wrong in ordering it, that person is entitled to appeal against the order. In some cases the fact that the treatment is carried out before the appeal can be heard makes the appeal process pointless.

In order to remedy that and to make it clear that everyone is entitled to an effective right of appeal, this bill will give a specific power to the Supreme Court to order a stay of the decision of the tribunal until the appeal is heard. The stay is not automatic or compulsory. It will be up to the Supreme Court to decide whether a stay is appropriate. This is a minor amendment, but its effect is to protect a very important right of appeal.

I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stefaniak ) adjourned to the next sitting.

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