Public Audit Committee commends swift action over departure of mental-health tribunal president


Scottish ministers were today praised by a Holyrood committee over the way they handled the departure of a former president of the Mental Health Tribunal Scotland.

A disciplinary committee investigating the former president made several findings relating to intimidating conduct, bullying and conduct associated with harassment, but stopped short of ordering her removal from office.

Following the findings, ministers decided to pursue a negotiated settlement with the former president in order to facilitate her departure.

Committee Convener Hugh Henry MSP said: “The committee was rather surprised that the disciplinary committee did not recommend the removal of the former president from office, given the seriousness of its findings against her.

"We recognised that this placed ministers in a difficult position and commend their decision to put their duty of care to tribunal staff first and take action which resulted in the departure of the former president.”

During its inquiry, the committee noted the legal arrangements governing the post of President of the Mental Health Tribunal Scotland which mean that it is only possible to appoint an acting president in the stead of a president who is absent from office.

Should a president leave office entirely, then the operation of the tribunal would have to suspend until a new president is in place.

The committee heard that an acting president was appointed over a six-month period prior to the departure of the former president. Although this led to substantial extra costs, the tribunal avoided the suspension of its activities and was able to continue to operate.

In evidence to the committee, the Permanent Secretary, Sir John Elvidge, said the Scottish Government intended to address the anomaly within the rules governing the recruitment and appointment process in its ongoing review of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003. 

The Public Audit Committee inquiry examined the 2008/09 Audit of the Mental Health Tribunal for Scotland Administration which was prepared by the Auditor General for Scotland in December 2009.

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