Forensic Fitness to stand trial.odt

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13 Apr 2012

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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
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
Reasoning ability
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.
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