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“Judicial inquiry”: Going to the High Court

Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, s 84

If you are in hospital under an inpatient compulsory treatment order (see “Compulsory Treatment Orders” in this chapter), anybody can apply to the High Court for a judicial inquiry. This is an inquiry into the legality of a patient’s detention or whether the patient is fit to be discharged.

If somebody applies for an inquiry, a judge can arrange for a district inspector to investigate your case. If the judge decides that you:

  • are being held illegally, or
  • are fit to be discharged from hospital,

they can order that you be discharged.

Habeas Corpus Act 2001, s 6; Case: [2010] NZCA 632

You also have a separate right to apply to a High Court judge for what’s called a “writ of habeas corpus”. This is a long-established type of legal action you can use if you believe the police or other officials are holding you illegally.

However, if your main argument in applying for a habeas corpus writ is that you don’t believe you have a mental disorder, the judge will be very unlikely to grant you the writ and order your release. The courts see it as more appropriate to use the special processes set up under the Mental Health Act for challenging mental health assessments under the Act, including reviews by Family Court Judges and the special Review Tribunal.

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Mental health

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Community Law


Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice and information.

Health and Disability Commissioner


This “Mental health and addictions” webpage has information and pamphlets about mental-health services, including information for families and whānau.

Since the Mental Health Commission ceased to exist in 2012, the functions of the Health and Disability Commissioner have included monitoring mental health and addiction services and promoting improvements to those services. A specialist Mental Health Commissioner position was established in 2012 as part of the Office of the Health and Disability Commissioner.

Ministry of Health Services and Support


List of publicly funded health and disability services available in New Zealand.

Mental Health Foundation


The Mental Health Foundation has useful links and resources for people dealing with mental health issues. Helplines:


1737 call or text to talk


1737 is a completely free service to call or text 1737 any time, 24 hours a day. You’ll get to talk to (or text with) a trained counsellor.

Mental health district inspectors


You can find a list of district inspectors on www.health.govt.nz if you search for “mental health district inspectors”

District Inspectors are lawyers appointed by the Minister of Health to protect the rights of people receiving treatment under the Mental Health (Compulsory Assessment and Treatment) Act 1992, or the Intellectual Disability (Compulsory Care and Rehabilitation) Act 2003.

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