Success of Mental Health Tribunal Hearing: December 2018

On the 29th of November 2018, Malcolm Baker appeared before the Mental Health Review Tribunal to review his treatment order. Mr. Baker’s previous hearing on the 16th of August 2018 ordered a cease of forced administration of medication, and consequentially, Mr. Baker has been without medication since June 2018. Despite the implementation of these changes, Mr. Baker’s treatment order has not been formally amended. The purpose of this most recent hearing was to review the need for an ongoing treatment order. The Tribunal considered our Personal Management Plan for Malcolm Baker – the submission can be read here. 

Opening the Tribunal, the lead psychiatrist’s opening statement proved that Mr Baker is mentally stable, drawing emphasis to the fact that he is not delusional and has not displayed any new psychotic symptoms since receiving the active order. The psychiatrist explained that Mr Baker’s experiences of paranoia are a result of traumatic events that have occurred both during his childhood and his imprisonment. Whilst Mr Baker may experience episodes of paranoid thinking after a traumatic or stressful event, it is important to note that these symptoms are transient and diminish within a few hours, rather than being serious signs of mental instability. 

At the Tribunal, there appeared to be unanimous agreement that Mr Baker is  not “a risk of serious harm to himself or others”, thereby exempting him from the legal definition of a ‘mentally ill person’ under s14 of the Mental Health Act. Consequentially, therapeutic intervention was agreed to be the preferred form of treatment for Mr Baker, rather than an ongoing plan for forced medication.

All persons at the hearing stressed the importance of ensuring Mr Baker would reside in a safe environment, and there was lengthy discussion about whether this will be best provided at Long Bay Hospital where Malcolm is currently held, or within the mainstream prison system. The lead psychiatrist advocated for psychological treatment within the hospital to assist Malcolm in building skills to re-enter the prison system. However, the psychiatrist also pointed out the benefits of Mr Baker returning to the mainstream prison system including access education, work, and the opportunity to effectively “make a life for himself”.

Nevertheless, the Tribunal has reserved making a formal judgement. They are expected to do so upon further deliberation in the next few weeks. Justice Action believes that it is possible to guarantee Mr Baker a ‘safe living environment’ in the prison system provided negotiation is constant between judicial and corrective NSW services. Mr Baker will continue to receive support from Justice Action and his family – the Tribunal agreed that Mr Baker would benefit from regular visits with renowned mental health consumer advocate Douglas Holmes. Justice Action deems the hearing a success and is optimistic about the outcome for Malcolm Baker’s future. 

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