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Lecture 2

Psychology 2990A/B Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Insanity Defense, Mental Disorder, Zoophilia

Course Code
Doug Hazlewood

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Chapter 2
Fitness to Stand Trial & Mental State at Time of Offence
Part 1: Fitness to Stand Trial
o What does fitness mean?
To receive a fair trial, people should be able to defend themselves against accusers
o What if person is unfit to stand trial?
Person should not be tried
o Q: How do we now whether a person is fit (or unfit) to stand trial?
o Legal Standards for Determining Fitness
Prior to 1836: ability to enter a plea
Reasons for not entering plea:
Mute for malice deliberately silent
o If so, can use torture to extract a plea
Mute by visitation of God e.g. deaf, mute, insane
o If so, person should not be tried
R. v. Pritchard (1936): Charged with bestiality, also a deaf-mute, so couldn’t enter plea;
couldn’t be tried for the crime
R stands for Regina for the Queen or Rex for the King
Court establishes clearer legal standard:
Able to enter a plea, AND must have sufficient intellect to
understand proceedings
Canada’s fitness standard for next  years
Canada’s Bill C-30 (1992): Revisions to Section 2 of Criminal Code
New fitness standard:
Person is unfit to stand trial if:
o Person has a mental disorder
o Disorder interferes with ability to conduct a defence
o Three criteria or elements:
Unable (because of mental disorder) to:
1. Understand nature and object of proceedings
2. Understand possible consequences
3. Communicate with counsel
Bill C-30 also established a new Part XX.1 of criminal code (deals with mental disorders)
Fitness assumed unless unfitness is shown on the balance of probabilities
Lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt
Party raising issue has burden of proving unfitness
The court (judge or jury) determines whether burden is met (whether accused
is fit or unfit
o Assessing Fitness to Stand Trial
Who can make an assessment of fitness?
Prior to , only medical doctors’ could provide fitness assessment to
courts didn’t have to be experts in mental disorders
)n , Part XX. expanded to include other qualified professionals
(including psychologists)
Another role of psychologists:
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Developing the tests that are used to assess fitness
How fitness is assessed:
Show that person has mental disorder, AND that this disorder interferes with
the 3 criteria in Section 2
Fitness Interview Test Revised (FIT-R)
o It was revised to take in the 3 criteria in Section 2
Has three sections:
1. Understand nature and object of proceedings. Includes:
o Arrest process and specific charges
o Role of judge, prosecutor, defence attorney, and jury
o Court procedures (e.g. can disagree with witnesses who testify
against him/her)
2. Understand consequences of proceedings. Includes, e.g.
o Range and nature of penalties (e.g. being sent to prison,
eligibility for parole)
3. Ability to communicate with counsel, e.g.
o Can communicate facts of case to lawyers
o Can plan (assist with) legal defence strategy
o Can testify (if required)
o Can manage courtroom behaviour
NOTE: FIT-R does not assess whether accused has a mental disorder (other
testes are used for that purpose, e.g. DSM-V)
o What happens after assessment?
Assessment report is submitted to court
Court makes its own judgement of fitness
If Fit to stand trial, case proceeds to trial
Accused can be detained in custody if reason to believe he/she might become
If Unfit, proceedings are temporarily stopped
Goal is to restore fitness using treatment
In Canada, usual treatment was medication to control mental disorder
especially pre-2005)
Since 2005, psychological treatments are more common to achieve criterial of
How long can this go on?
Accused can request that case be reviewed at any time (to see if he/she is still
unfit to stand trial)
Every 2 years, Crown must prove there is still sufficient evidence for trial; if
not, case is dropped (and accused is acquitted)
Part 2: Mental State at the Time of the Offence
o I may appeal to all who hear me, whether there are any causes more difficult as when insanity
becomes the subject of legal consideration and judgement
R. v. Hadfield, 1800
o What does guilty mean?
Two elements must be present:
1. A wrongful deed (actus reus)
2. Criminal or evil intent mens rea
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