A factsheet on the application and management of JEOs under Chapter 2, Division 2 of the Mental Health Act 2000 (Qld) (MHA).

The MHA can be accessed in full on the Queensland Health website.

For a flowchart on involuntary assessment and treatment in the Queensland mental health system, see LawRight’s website.

What is a JEO?

A justices examination order authorises a doctor or an authorised mental health practitioner to examine a person who is thought to be suffering from a mental illness in order to decide whether or not to recommend that they undergo a full psychiatric assessment (see Involuntary Assessment).

A JEO is an appropriate option in non-urgent situations, where a person is not at imminent risk of harming themselves or others. A JEO application and examination can take some hours or days to finalise.

In an emergency (that is, where there is an immediate risk of someone being harmed), an Emergency Examination Order may be made by a police officer, ambulance officer or psychiatrist.

Who can make a JEO?

Any person can make an application for a JEO. However, the JEO itself is made by a magistrate or justice of the peace.

How is a JEO made?

Application to a magistrate or justice of the peace
An application for a JEO can be made by any person using the application form. An application form can be obtained from a JP, local courthouse or a mental health service. For more information please see the Queensland Health website. The application must be sworn as to its truth and state the grounds on which it is made. Penalties apply for giving information the applicant knows is false or misleading (40 penalty units): s 522, MHA.

The information provided on the application will be used by the Magistrate or JP to decide whether a JEO should be issued. It will also help the doctor or health practitioner who examines the person if a JEO is issued.

The completed application must then be filed with the Magistrates Court or given to a justice of the peace.

Making an order
A magistrate or JP can make a JEO only if they reasonably believe:

  • the person has a mental illness, and
  • the person should be examined by a doctor or authorised mental health practitioner to decide whether a recommendation for assessment for the person should be made; and
  • the examination cannot be properly carried out unless the order is made: s 28(1), MHA.

The magistrate or JP may seek advice from a mental health service about the grounds of an application, for example, to request information about whether particular behaviour might indicate mental illness. The magistrate or JP may decide that corroborating information is necessary.

JEOs must be made in the approved form.

Most JEO applications are made to JPs instead of magistrates. A useful guide for JPs in considering whether to make a JEO is available here.

After making the order

If the JEO has been made by a magistrate, then the registrar of the court must send the order and a copy of the application documents to the administrator of an authorised mental health service: s 29(1), MHA.

If the JEO was made by a JP, then the JEO must be sent with a copy of the application documents to the administrator of an authorised mental health service. A copy of the JEO must also be sent to the registrar of the Magistrates Court stated in the order: s 29(2), MHA.

The appropriate authorised mental health service is usually the one closest to the person the subject of the order.

How long is a JEO in force?

The order will state the period for which it is valid. This is up to a maximum of 7 days, after which time it ceases to have effect: s 31, MHA.

What is the effect of a JEO?

A JEO authorises a doctor or authorised mental health practitioner to examine the person to decide whether a recommendation for assessment for the person should be made: s 30(1), MHA.

If both a recommendation for assessment and a request for assessment is made, then a health practitioner or ambulance officer has the power to take the person to an authorised mental health service for an Involuntary Assessment, with a view to determining whether that person should be placed on an Involuntary Treatment Order (ITO).

Powers of a doctor or practitioner

Under a JEO, a doctor or practitioner may:

  • examine a person without their consent;
  • for the purpose of carrying out the examination, enter a place stated in the JEO or another place the doctor or practitioner reasonably believes the person may be found;
  • exercise these powers with the help that is reasonable in the circumstances;
  • exercise these powers at any reasonable time of the day or night.: s 30, MHA.

Powers of police

Police are not automatically involved in the process, but must assist as soon as reasonably practicable if requested by the doctor or practitioner (a public official), and ensure reasonable help is given: s 25(3), MHA.

If asked by a public official, the police officer may help the public official to perform their functions: s 16, Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld). In doing so, the police officer has the same powers and protections as the public official under the MHA.

In addition, police officers:

  • may detain the person at the place for the examination to be carried out by a doctor or authorised mental health practitioner: s 30(4)(b), MHA;
  • have the power to enter and search a place, including stopping a car, in order to arrest or detain someone: s 21, Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld);
  • have the right to enter a place to prevent an offence, injury or domestic violence: s 609, Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld).

What are my rights if I am subject to a JEO?

Upon examination
If a doctor or authorised mental health practitioner tries to examine you under a JEO, then they must, to the extent that it is reasonable and practicable in the circumstances:

  • explain to you, in general terms, the nature and effect of the order: s 30(7)(a), MHA;
  • produce the JEO (or a copy) to you for inspection: s 30 (7)(b), MHA;
  • Identify themselves and anyone helping them to you, for example by producing their identity card for your inspection or having their identity card on display so it is clearly visible to you: s 542, MHA.

However, failure to comply with these requirements does not invalidate the exercise of their power to take you to an authorised mental health service.

Accessing information about your examination

The Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) gives you the right to access your own personal information held by government, unless, on balance it would be contrary to the public interest to release the information. Applications under the Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld) are free, however, there may be access charges, for example, photocopying charges.

Before making a formal application, you should first contact Queensland Health and make a request for the information. The relevant contact details are:

Administrative Law Team, Legal Unit
Queensland Health
GPO Box 48
Brisbane QLD 4001
Tel: (07) 323 41735
Email: RTI-Privacy@health.qld.gov.au

If this is unsuccessful, then you can make a formal access application. See here to apply online or to download an application form.

The processing period is generally 25 days from the date the application is received.

An access application may be refused for a number of reasons including if the document relates to the applicant’s health care information and its disclosure might be prejudicial to their physical or mental health or wellbeing: see s 67, Information Privacy Act 2009 (Qld), and s 47 of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld).

Alternatively, the documents may be released to you but with information about other individuals “blacked out” in order to protect their privacy. Therefore, it is unlikely you will find out who made the JEO under an access application.

If an application is refused, then in certain circumstances you may be able to apply for review of that decision.

Guardians and attorneys who have power for a health matter for an adult have certain rights to information about the adult from their health provider. See s 76 of the Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 (Qld).

What can I do if I am being examined under a JEO?

A JEO gives a doctor or practitioner the power to enter your home and examine you. It is important that you try to your best to remain calm and comply with the doctors examination. JEOs are not uncommon, with over 2542 such orders made in the past three years, and many JEOs do not progress past the initial doctor’s examination.

There are some simple things you can do to make the examination less stressful and help the doctor:

DO

  • Ask for a copy of the JEO and ask them to explain the nature and effect of the order and the reasons it was issued.
  • Tell the examining doctor if you have a GP or regular doctor. Your regular doctor may be able to provide information which will help the examining doctor find that you do not require a full psychiatric assessment.
  • Talk to the examining doctor about things you are involved in, a job, sporting team, community groups or hobbies you enjoy. This type of information shows that you may not require immediate involuntary assessment.

DON’T

  • Get upset or angry. The examining doctor is doing their job as required by law and wants to help you as best they can.
  • Attempt to refuse entry. The examining doctor is empowered to enter the premises under law and may request the aid of police under the Police Powers and Responsibilities Act (2000) Qld.
  • Demand to know who made the application for the JEO. The doctor is unable to provide such information under privacy laws.