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Forensic: Fitness to Stand Trial
•Definitions of Fitness: an assessment of the current mental condition of the accused. In order to
be found guilty, prosecutors must establish actus Reus(a wrongful deed) and mens rea (criminal
•Goal: to determine whether it interferes with your ability to perform legal tasks.
•R v Pritchard: to determine whether you currently suffer from a deficit:
◦Can you assist in their defence?
◦Do you understand their role in the proceedings?
◦Do you understand the nature of the proceedings?
•Section 2 of Criminal Code: where a person is not fit because they…
◦Don’t understand the nature of the proceedings…
◦Don’t understand the consequences of the proceedings…
◦Can’t communicate with counsel…
•Because of a current mental disorder.
•To be found unfit, you must suffer from a mental disorder of some kind but having a mental
disorder does not automatically make you unfit to stand trial (ex. depression wouldn’t make you
•Assessment Instruments: if fit, the trial will continue; if unfit, a formal assessment will take place
(this can take between 5 to 30 days) and will typically be conducted by a psychiatrist (except in
Canada, where you have to be a medical practitioner but a psychologist can assist). Two common
procedures to test fitness:
•FIT-R(Fitness Interview Test Revised): (Canada) a semi-structured interview to determine if you
suffer from a mental disorder.
◦It assesses 3 psychological abilities:
▪Understanding of proceedings (i.e. factual knowledge about the proceedings like the
severity of the charges)
▪Understanding of consequences (i.e. appreciation of the role you play)
▪Communicative with counsel (i.e. the ability to participate in your defence)
◦Results: does seem to distinguish between those that have mental disorders that would render
them unfit to stand trial than those that do not.
•MacCAT-CA: (USA) a structured interview to determine if you’re fit to stand trial and plead
◦Questions are grouped into 3 categories:
▪Understanding of legal system
▪Understanding of own legal situation
•Other procedures to test fitness:
•CST (Competency Screening Test): distinguishes between competent people and those who
should undergo a more rigorous evaluation by completing uncomplicated sentences; these
sentences cover 3 constructs:
◦Potential for a constructive relationship between the defendant and his lawyer;
◦The defendant’s understanding of the court process; and
◦The ability of the defendant to emotionally cope with the criminal process.