Access to Tribunal Hearings & Media Contact

Access to Tribunal Hearings & Media Contact

Hearings of the NSW Mental Health Review Tribunal are open to the public, including the media. If you would like to attend a hearing, please read the information below. It is important that you are aware of the law protecting people involved in Tribunal hearings.

The law protecting identities

Although Tribunal hearings are open to the public, s 162 of the Mental Health Act 2007 protects the privacy of people involved in those hearings. It prohibits, except with the consent of the Tribunal, the publication or broadcast of the name, picture or any other information which identifies a person whose matter is before the Tribunal, who appears as a witness or who is mentioned or involved in any proceedings. This includes carers and health practitioners. It applies before, during and after the hearing. 

Section 189 of the Mental Health Act 2007 restricts the disclosure of information obtained in connection with the administration of the Act or the Mental Health (Forensic Provisions) Act 1990

Purpose of the law

Protection under s 162 is given so that everyone involved in the Tribunal hearing can talk freely without worrying that they may be identified in the media. This encourages all participants to get involved in the hearing and openly share information with the Tribunal.  During hearings, the Tribunal may discuss a person’s personal and health information in detail. Discussion can include victims and the harm suffered.

If all the information is made public, a person who lives with a mental illness may experience humiliation or disadvantage in their work or social life. If details about a patient’s leave or release plans were to become public knowledge, then it may affect the person’s ability to safely re-join the community.

Publication of upcoming hearings and Tribunal decisions

The Tribunal cannot publish lists of upcoming hearings because of s 162.  However, on request the Tribunal’s Registrar can advise of the time and date of any particular hearing.

Section 162 also means there are restrictions on the publication or broadcast of the outcome of hearings in Tribunal decisions. However, the Tribunal does publish Official Reports of the reasons for its decisions if a case has broader significance. An Official Report will contain the significant information but will not identify the people involved. The Tribunal’s Official Reports can be found on its website and on the Austlii website.

How to request consent to publish or broadcast

Independent legal advice should be obtained about how the law relates to a particular proposed publication or broadcast. If you would like to request the Tribunal’s consent to publish or broadcast information, you can apply to the Tribunal. The Tribunal’s Practice Direction sets out the process for making an application. You may also find it useful to read the Tribunal’s Official Reports, as some of these relate to applications for consent.

Public access to Tribunal hearings

Tribunal hearings are generally held in hearing rooms in the Tribunal building at Gladesville. A number of panels sit daily to conduct these hearings, mostly by video or telephone.  Other than Gladesville, Tribunal hearings are held in hospitals, community health centres, secure facilities and correctional centres around the State.

The Gladesville hearing rooms are accessible and arrangements can be made for those interested to attend a particular hearing or to generally observe hearings. Please contact the Tribunal first to confirm sitting arrangements (contact details below).

The Tribunal does not control access to correctional centres or mental health facilities. Access to these facilities to attend a Tribunal hearing needs to be arranged directly with the facility. If it is not possible to physically attend a hearing in one of these facilities, arrangements can be made to listen to the hearing by telephone or to watch it by video link. Please contact the Tribunal’s Registrar to make these arrangements (contact details below).

The Tribunal can also make special arrangements for registered victims to watch hearings.

Restricting participation in hearings - closing hearings

Tribunal hearings are open to the public, which means that usually all information is discussed in an open and public forum.

However, the Tribunal may decide to take some evidence in private, or restrict the disclosure of evidence at a hearing for a range of reasons including:

  • Allowing a person to confidently discuss highly sensitive and personal information;
  • Making sure that a patient’s safe and effective care, and the safety of the public are not jeopardised by a public discussion of information that is relevant to a Tribunal decision;
  • In forensic matters, assisting registered victims to feel safe when providing information to the Tribunal.

Under s. 151(4) of the Mental Health Act 2007, the Tribunal can make an order to:

  • Conduct some or all of the hearing in private.  This would usually involve putting external participants (or observers) on mute or asking participants in the room to leave while the Tribunal hears evidence on a particular topic;
  • Prohibit the publication or broadcast of particular proceedings;
  • Prohibit the publication of evidence given before the Tribunal;
  • Restrict the disclosure of evidence given before the Tribunal to some or all of the parties to the proceedings.

Media access

The Tribunal recognises the important role that the media performs on behalf of the community. The Tribunal exercises power in people’s lives and assesses public and personal safety and the media facilitate the transparency and accountability of the Tribunal’s decision making. The Tribunal is committed to assisting media organisations to ensure fair and accurate reporting.

Media interviews and comment

The Tribunal cannot make public comment on any matters it considers, current or past. However, general information about the Tribunal’s role and procedures can be provided. The President of the Tribunal may participate in media interviews regarding the general work of the Tribunal. Journalists should contact the Registrar with interview requests.

Media Enquiries

For any media enquiries, please contact:

Rodney Brabin
Registrar
(02) 9816 5955
1800 815 511 (free call)
mhrt-mhrt@health.nsw.gov.au

Media enquiries can also be directed to the Media Unit of the Ministry of Health.  Staff in the unit are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week via an on-call service. Phone (02) 9391 9121 (during business hours), (02) 9962 9890 (after business hours) or email media@health.nsw.gov.au.

Further information about the Tribunal

There is more information about the work of the Tribunal on this website. If you wish to access information about the Tribunal under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 or the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002, the application should be made to the Right to Information Officer at the Ministry of Health. More information about that process can be found here.