Fitness to Stand Trial
The idea that a criminal defendant should, in a just social system, be able to mentally participate in their trial as well as be physically present dates back to the roots of English common law. ‘Un-fitness to Stand Trial’ therefore depends upon the presence of a mental disorder at the of the trial. It is perfectly possible for a mental disorder to not affect Fitness to Stand Trial but to affect criminal responsibility as the latter would be relevant only at the time that the criminal offence was committed. Similarly, an individual’s eligibility for involuntary hospitalization depends on different criteria again.
The criteria for Fitness have varied somewhat in the Canadian context, though at the present time, the criteria are laid out in the Mental Disorder section of the Criminal Code of Canada and were explored by the Ontario appellant courts in R v Taylor, 1992.
To be found Unfit to Stand Trial, the individual must, on account of mental disorder, be unable to conduct their defence at any stage of the proceedings before a verdict is rendered or to instruct counsel to do so. In particular, the unfit individual will be unable to understand the nature or object of the proceedings, the possible consequences of the proceedings or communicate effectively with counsel.
Hucker, S.J . & Lewis, A. (2005) “Fitness (Competence) to stand trial”. In Encyclopedia of Forensic & Legal Medicine. Payne-Jones, J., Byard, R., Cory, T. & Henderson, C. (eds). Elsevier: Oxford.
Zapf, Patricia, A., Roesch, Ronald, Viljoen, Jodi L. "Assessing Fitness to Stand Trial: The Utility of the Fitness Interview Test (Revised Edition)".Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, June 2001.
Roesch, Ronald, Zapf, Patricia, Eaves, Derek, Webster, Christopher D. (1998) "Fitness Interview Test (2nd Edition)". . Mental Health Law and Policy Unit, Simon Fraser University.
Bloom, H. "Psychiatric Issues in the Criminal Process". In A Practical Guide ot Mental Health Law, Capacity and Consent Law of Ontario. Hy Bloom and Michael Bay (eds). Carswell. 1996. pp 255-292.
Schneider RD & Bloom, H. "Taylor Decision Not in the Best Interests of Some Mentally Ill Accused",(1995), Criminal Law Quarterly, Vol. 38, 183-205.
Response to the 14th Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights
Review of the Mental Disorder Provisions of the Criminal Code, 2002
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