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PSYC 2400 (77)
Chapter 8

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PSYC 2400
Jenelle Power

Forensic PsychologyChapter 8The Role of Mental Illness in CourtPresumptions in Canadas Legal SystemCanadian law identifies two elements that must be present for criminal guilt to be establishedActus reus wrongful deedMens rea criminal intentBoth of these elements must be found beyond a reasonable doubt for a guilty verdict to be reachedFitness to Stand TrialUnfit to stand trial refers to an inability to conduct a defence at any stage of the proceedings on account of a persons mental disorderThe degree of impairment necessary for an unfit determination is difficult to pinpointHistorically little direction was provided by means of legislation for a finding of unfitness rather case law was used to determine the criteria that should be metWith the enactment of Bill C30 in 1992 the Criminal Code stated a fitness standardA defendant is unfit to stand trial if he or she isunable on account of mental disorder to conduct a defence at any stage of the proceedings before a verdict is rendered or to instruct counsel to do so and in particular unable on account of mental disorder to a understand the nature or object of the proceedings b understand the possible consequences of the proceedings or c communicate with counselThe test to be applied in terms of communicating with counsel is with regard to limited cognitive capacity The court ruled that a defendant need only be able to state the facts relating to the offence that would allow an appropriate defence The defendant need not be able to communicate facts in his or her best interests Another issue that was altered with Bill C30 was the length of time a defendant could be held in custody for a fitness evaluationA five day limit on court ordered assessments was legislated with provisions for extensions if necessary not exceeding 30 daysMental health law is under provincialterritorial jurisdictionRaising the Issue of FitnessThe issue of a defendants fitness may be raised at various points from the time of arrest to the defendants sentence determinationInstances in which the issue of fitness may be raised include when a plea is entered when a defendant chooses not to be represented by counsel and during sentencingA defendant is assumed to be fit to stand trial unless the court is satisfied on the balance of probabilities that he or she is unfit
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