About the Mental Health Court
The Mental Health Court decides the state of mind of people charged with criminal offences.
A criminal case can be referred to the Mental Health Court if it’s believed that the alleged offender is or was mentally ill, or has an intellectual disability.
The court decides whether an alleged offender was of unsound mind when they committed the offence and whether they are fit for trial.
The court also hears appeals from the Mental Health Review Tribunal and inquiries into the lawfulness of a patient’s detention in authorised mental health facilities.
How the court is constituted
The court is constituted by judges of the Supreme Court of Queensland.
The court is advised by two assisting psychiatrists drawn from the following panel:
- Dr E McVie
- Dr S Harden
- Dr J Sundin
- Dr R Phillipson
- Dr J Reddan
- Dr G Palk
- Dr A Simpson.
Additionally, assisting psychiatrists advise the court on the meaning and significance of clinical evidence and issues relating to the treatment and detention needs of people under the Mental Health Act 2016.
How criminal cases are referred
A criminal case can be referred to the Mental Health Court by:
- the alleged offender or their legal representatives
- the Director of Public Prosecutions
- the Director of Mental Health, if the person is receiving treatment for a mental illness or intellectual disability
- The Director of Forensic Disability
- Magistrates Court, District Court or Supreme Court.
Make a reference
Make a reference to the Mental Health Court by filing Form 03 - Reference of person's mental state to the Mental Health Court or .
You must also provide an expert’s report that documents their examination of the defendant.
Withdraw a reference
You can apply to withdraw the reference at any time before the Mental Health Court makes its decision by filing a Form 09 - Application to withdraw reference or in the court registry or by making an oral submission at the hearing.
The court may grant or refuse your application.
Parties to the proceedings
For hearings of criminal cases referred to the Mental Health Court the parties are the alleged offender (represented by their legal representatives), the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Director of Mental Health.
Victims of crime and their families or associates are not parties to the proceedings. However victims or ‘concerned persons’ can make written submissions to the court through a party to the proceedings.
The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions represents the community of Queensland in criminal proceedings that come before the Mental Health Court.
The court also hears appeals from decisions of the Mental Health Review Tribunal. In this case, the parties to the proceedings are the patient, the Director of Mental Health and, for forensic patients, the Attorney-General.
Powers of the Mental Health Court
The Mental Health Court decides whether an alleged offender was of unsound mind when they committed an offence and whether they are fit for trial.
It also hears appeals from the Mental Health Review Tribunal and inquiries into the lawfulness of patients’ detention in authorised mental health facilities.
Material it can consider
The Mental Health Court can fully investigate the relationship between a person’s mental illness and alleged offences.
The court isn’t bound by the rules of evidence that govern other types of court proceedings.
The court can consider a wide range of material, including police reports, expert reports, advice from the assisting psychiatrists, and submissions from the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Director of Mental Health and the alleged offender’s legal representatives.
The Mental Health Court also has the power to make an examination order, which orders a defendant to submit to an examination by a court nominated psychiatrist or health practitioner. This could happen, for example, when existing reports don’t adequately address certain matters.
The court may make this order on its own initiative, at the recommendation of an assisting psychiatrist or following a request by the Director of Public Prosecutions.
The court can admit defendants to an authorised mental health facility for the examination if necessary.
Read more about the types of orders the court can make.
Inquiries into detention
The Mental Health Court has special inquiry and investigation powers. These can be used on application or on the court’s initiative if it is believed that the detention of someone in an authorised mental health facility is not lawful.
To apply for an inquiry, file a Form 08 - Application for review of a person's detention or in the registry. State the reasons for the application.
The court may refuse the application if it believes the application either could be dealt with better by the Mental Health Review Tribunal on a review, or is frivolous or vexatious.
If it accepts the application, the court appoints a nominated practitioner (legal or medical) to investigate.