Fitness to stand trial

Fitness to stand trial

The Law Commission has launched a consultation which looks at how it is determined whether someone accused of a crime is mentally fit to participate in a criminal trial and what should be done if they are not?

The consultation argues that the way ?unfitness? is defined is out of date ? the rules haven?t changed since 1836 ? and how the courts deal with people who are unfit fails to achieve just outcomes.

The consultation proposes that the procedure which looks at ?unfitness to plead? should be brought it into line with modern psychiatric thinking rather than the current procedure which looks at whether an accused person who has mental or physical disabilities is able to understand the evidence and the proceedings of a criminal trial. It suggests that the focus should be on whether an accused can play a meaningful and effective part in the trial, and make relevant decisions about his or her defence.

In addition, the Commission proposes changes to the alternative trial process that would:

  • bring greater fairness, by providing a more effective process;
  • ensure those who could stand trial with special assistance do stand trial; and
  • maintain protection for the public from those who may be dangerous.

Professor David Ormerod, the Law Commissioner leading on the project, said:

?The law needs to guarantee justice for the accused, making sure those who are fit for trial are sent to trial, and secure protection for the public. We are seeking views on our proposals to change both the way the courts decide whether someone is fit to stand trial and the procedures that should be followed if they are not.?

The consultation paper, ?Unfitness to Plead?, can be found on the Law Commission’s website

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