Evidence presented by family members at a review panel hearing must be relevant to the hearing. The evidence may be submitted in writing or presented orally at the hearing such as in person or by phone. If a family member submits a written statement to the review panel, the patient’s representative may arrange to have the family member available to answer questions at the hearing by phone.
Oral evidence is preferred because it allows participants and review panel members to ask questions to clarify the evidence and provides the review panel with a better opportunity to assess the persuasiveness of the evidence. Unless the patient agrees or the review panel orders otherwise, family members and other witnesses must remain outside of the hearing room, except when giving evidence or making submissions to the review panel.
Occasionally, family members wishing to present evidence in support of continued involuntary detention ask the review panel to consider their evidence in confidence. Although the law allows the review panel chair to exclude the patient from all or part of the hearing if the chair is satisfied it is in the best interests of the patient, review panel chairs rarely exclude patients from a hearing, in order to preserve administrative law principles of fairness and hear evidence from family members in the presence of the patient. Experience has shown that it has often been possible to include evidence from family members in the hospital’s presentation in such a way as to minimize or avoid negative repercussions.