What’s it like to Interpret Mental Health Tribunals?

We wanted to give an insight on what it’s like to Interpret a Mental Health Tribunal. So, we asked Robert Grieve, one of our staff interpreters and a previous Mental Health worker to share his experience with us. We hope this is informative for those who haven’t covered a booking like this before. At the very least, it’s a fantastic opportunity to start a conversation about Mental Health.

In this short article we hope to dispel some of the mystique around interpreting Mental Health Tribunals and reassure those interpreters who might be anxious at working in this context.

Are you interested in interpreting in a court but aren’t sure where to start? Our training will help give you the confidence you need, click here.

So, Robert, what is a Mental Health Tribunal?

The Mental Health Tribunal is an independent statutory body established under the Mental
Health Act 2013. It protects the rights, safety, inclusion and dignity of people being involuntarily treated for mental illness.

The Tribunal’s main function is:
  • To authorize and review the treatment of people with mental illness, who don’t have the capacity to make decisions and provide informed consent for treatment.
This includes deciding:
  • When people with a mental illness can be detained in a hospital or other treatment facility.
  • What treatment a doctor can provide when it has been decided that the person is too unwell to make treatment decisions for themselves.
The Tribunal is independent.

It is not connected to any hospital or other facility or organisation that provides mental health services.

There are three presiding panel members;

A legal member who chairs the meeting, a doctor and a lay member with expertise/ knowledge in the field of disability. The doctor meets with the patient to conduct their own independent assessment, after which the meeting convenes.

Other participants include:

The patient’s solicitor, their key nurse, their doctor and sometimes a social worker. Each provide the panel with written reports and, in turn, answer questions from them and from the patient’s solicitor. After all parties have spoken, the solicitor summaries the patient’s application and outlines the reasons that it should be supported. A decision is given, usually on the day, after the panel retire to discuss.

In addition to BSL interpreters…

It is also usual for a relay interpreter to be present which can be invaluable. The meeting is
necessarily formal and therefore medical/ legal terminology is often used which can cause problems in translation. However, as in all interpreting contexts, we have a variety of strategies at our disposal; the most obvious being to seek clarification. Tribunal panels are keen to include the patient and they therefore respond helpfully to such requests. A patient’s state of mental health can also sometimes challenge our understanding; but again the panel are aware of these potential problems and value our honesty when we state that we don’t understand the patient’s contribution and explain why.

And here’s the best bit…

The participants at a mental health tribunal are, almost without exception, specialists in Deafness; they are therefore very informed and consequently very supportive of tribunal interpreters.

So, to those who have yet to dip their toes; I hope I have convinced you. Hope to see you soon, Robert Grieve”

Next Steps
If you are interested in covering mental health tribunals, we are able to offer MHT assignments up and down the UK with supportive, fully registered and experienced interpreting teams.

If you would like to find out more, please contact the legal team at legal@clarion-uk.com and we will be happy to organise this.


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