Psych 2990: Topics in Applied Psychology
Part 1: Fitness to Stand Trial
A. What does “fitness” mean?
To receive a fair trial, people should be able to defend themselves against
B. What is person is unfit to stand trial?
Person should NOT be tried.
Question: How do we know whether a person is fit (or unfit) to stand trial?
C. Legal standards for determining fitness
1. Prior to 1836: “Ability to enter a plea”
Reasons for NOT entering plea:
mute of malice (deliberately silent)
▯ f so, can use torture to extract plea
“mute by visitation of God” (e.g. deaf, mute, insane)
▯if so, person should not be tried
2. R. v. Pritchard (1836): Charged with bestiality. Also a deafmute, so couldn’t
enter plea: couldn’t be tried for the crime
court establishes clearer legal standard:
able to enter a plea, AND must have “sufficient intellect” to understand
▯Canada’s fitness standard for net 156 years
3. Canada’s Bill C30 (1992): Revisions to Section 2 of Criminal Code
new “fitness” standard:
Person is unfit to stand trial if:
Person has a mental disorder;
Disorder interferes with ability to conduct a defence. Three criteria (or
Unable (b.c of mental disorder) to:
1. Understand nature and object of proceedings:
2. Understand possible consequences;
3. Communicate with counsel
Bill C30 also established 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”).
D. Assessing Fitness to Stand Trial
1. Who can make an assessment?
Prior to 2005, only “medical doctors” could provide assessments to courts
(didn’t have to be “experts” in mental disorders)
in 2005, Part XX. 1 expanded to include “other qualified professionals”
2. another role of psychologists:
developing the tests that are used to asses fitness
3. How is fitness assessed? 2
• show that person has mental disorder, AND
• disorder interferes with 3 criteria in section 2
• ▯Fitness Interview Test – Revised (FITR)
• has THREE SECTIONS:
(1) Nature and object of proceedings…INCLUDES:
− Arrest process and specific charges
− Role of judge , prosecutor, defence attorney, and jury
− Court procedures (e.g. can disagree with witness who testify
(2) Consequences of proceedings. Includes, e.g.
− range and nature of penalities (e.g., being sent to prison; eligibility
(3) Ability to communicate with counsel, e.g.,
− can communicate facts f case to lawyers
− can plan (assist with) legal defence strategy
− can testify (if required)
− can manage courtroom behaviour
NOTE: FITR does NOT assess mental disorders (other tests are used, e.g., DSMV)
E. What happens AFTER assessment?
− Assessment report is submitted to court
− Court make its own judgment
▯ f FIT to stand trial, case proceeds to trial
accused can be detained in custody if reason to believe he/she might
▯If UNFIT, proceedings are temporarily stopped
goal: Restore fitness (using “treatment”)
in Canada, usual treatment was medication to control mental disorder
since 2005, psychological treatments are more common to achieve
criteria of fitness
How long can this go on?
Accused can request that case be reviewed at any time
Every 2 years, Crown must prove that 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
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 judgment.
R. v. Hadfield.
A. What does “guilty” mean?
1. a “wrongful deed” (actus reus)
2. Criminal (or “evil” intent (mens rea) Psych 2990: Topics in Applied Psychology
▯ “guilty mind”
B. Legal standards for determining absence of guilty mind
1700s: the “wild beast” standard
“totally deprived of understanding: no more than…a wild beast”
1736: Lord Hale level of understanding less than a normal 14 yr old
1800’s Two important cases
1. R. v. Hadfield (1800)
hadfield attempts to shoot King George III of England;
charged with treason; pleads insanity. Jury agrees: ▯NOT guilty
by reason of insanity
verdict infuriates public: Accused can “get off” simply by