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Psychology 2990A/B Study Guide - Actus Reus, Mental Disorder, Zoophilia

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Doug Hazlewood

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Psychology & the Law 2
Chapter 2:
Forensic Psychology in Police Investigations
Part 1: Fitness to Stand Trial
A. What does “fitness” mean?
to receive a fair trial, people should be able to defend themselves against
- able to defend themselves
B. What if person is unfit to stand trial?
person should not be tried
Q. 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 pleas:
-“mute of malice” (deliberately silent)
if so, can use torture to extract a plea
-“mute by visitation of God” (ex: deaf, mute, insane)
if so, person should not be tried
2. R. v. Pritchard (1936): Charged with bestiality. Also a deaf-mute, so couldn’t
enter plea; couldn’t be tried for his crime
-court establishes a clearer legal standard:
-able to enter a plea, AND
-must have “sufficient intellect” to understand proceedings
Canada’s fitness standard for the next 156 years
3. Canada’s Bill C-30 (1992): Revisions to Section 2 of Criminal Code
new “fitness” standard:
-Person is UNFIT to stand trial if:
-person has mental disorder
-disorder interferes with ability to conduct defence.
-unable (b/c of mental disorder) to:
1. understand nature and object of proceedings;
2. understand possible consequences;
3. communicate with counsel
Three other things (in section 2):
-fitness assumed unless unfitness is shown “on balance of probabilities” (lower
standard than “beyond reasonable doubt”- in that case it is a much HIGHER
standard) (think 51%- a little bit more probabable than fit. We do not want to try
people who cannot be tried.)
-party raising issue has burden of proving unfitness;
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-the court determines whether burden is met (whether accused is “fit” or “unfit”)
-the judge will use evidence to determine whether the individual is fit or unfit
(the jury may also be involved) but it seems that the judge mostly decides if they are
fit or unfit. If the jury is involved can the same jury be involved in the hearing?
D. Assessing Fitness to Stand Trial
1. Who can make an assessment?
-prior to 2005, only “medical doctors” can provide assessments to courts
(don’t have to be “experts” in mental disorders)
-in 2005, Section 2 expanded to include “other qualified professionals”
(include psychologists)
2. Another role of psychologists:
-developing the tests that are used to assess fitness
3. How is fitness assessed?
-show that persona has mental disorder, AND
-disorder interferes with 3 criteria in section 2
Fitness Interview Test Revised (FIT-R) (revised because after 2005 the
rules changed)
> Nature and object of proceedings. Includes:
-Arrest process and specific charges;
-Role of judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, and jury;
-Court procedure (ex: can disagree with witnesses who testify
against him/her)
> Consequences of proceedings. Includes, ex:
-range and nature of penalties (ex being sent to prison;
eligibility for parole)
> Abilitiy to communicate with counsel, ex:
-can communicate facts of case to lawyers
-can plan (and assist with) legal defence strategy
-can testify (if required)
-can manage courtroom behaviour
NOTE: FIT-R does NOT assess mental disorders (other tests are used, ex: DSM-IV)
E. What happens after assessment?
-assessment report is submitted to court
-court makes its own judgement:
o if fit to stand trial, proceedings continue
accused can be detained in custody if reason to believe he/she
might become “unfit”
o if unfit, proceedings are temporarily stopped
Goal: Restore fitness (using “treatment”)
-In Canada, usual treatment was medication to control mental
disorder (esp pre-2005)
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