Amandeep Murria of Kangs Solicitors explores the issues surrounding fitness to plead and fitness to stand trial.
There must be careful consideration when deciding on whether a client is fit to plead and also, more importantly, fit to stand trial.
The opinion of two medical practitioners is usually required and who will, as the result of their assessment, conclude whether or not a client is suffering from a disability.
If it is established a disability exists, consideration must be given as to whether or not the disability is such that it would prejudice the conduct of a fair trial.
The decision regarding the client’s fitness to plead and to stand trial is usually made by the Trial Judge in the Crown Court and if he decides the client is fit, a trial then takes place in the normal way.
A Trial of the Facts | Kangs Criminal Defence Solicitors
However, if the Trial Judge concludes the client is unfit to stand trial, then a Trial of the Facts takes place.
In these circumstances, all of the evidence is presented to a jury in the usual manner and it is simply faced with the task of determining if the client “did the act or made the omission”, without any consideration as to whether the client is actually guilty or not and the mental aspect (the mens rea) of the offence is not taken into account.
Should a Jury conclude the facts have been proven and that the client did the act or made the omission, the Court has several disposals available to it by way of:
- an absolute discharge,
- a supervision order or
- a hospital order.
When Should the Issue of Fitness be Raised?
The issue of fitness is often raised by the Defence and should be identified as soon as possible.
It is, therefore, essential that all material and other relevant indicators are considered during the start of the proceedings and reviewed throughout to life of the proceedings.
There are times when a client may be unfit from the outset but during the proceedings, following treatment, may subsequently become fit to plead and fit to stand trial.
The issue of fitness is not just for the Defence to raise but can also can be raised by the Prosecution.
Fitness to plead and fitness to stand trial is not always because a client suffers from a Mental Health illness. Other disabilities can render a client from entering a plea or standing trial.
Should medical opinion be required, some of the following questions are addressed during the assessment process:
- Does the client have the ability to instruct Counsel/ Legal Team and provide instructions?
- Is the client able to understand the case against them?
- Is the client able to present their defence?
- Is the client able to give evidence?
The Legal Framework | Crime Solicitors
In the Crown Court, there is a statutory framework in place which is followed when fitness becomes an issue.
However, this framework does not exist when the case is dealt with in the Magistrates’ Court but guidance is provided and followed in established case law.
The disposals available to the Magistrates’ Court are similar to those available at the Crown Court.
Specialist Lawyers To Help You | Kangs Solicitors
We have specialist lawyers with in-depth knowledge and the experience to establish immediately if there are issues concerning fitness to plead and fitness to stand trial.
If you require advice on all areas of General and Complex Crime, then please do not hesitate to contact us through the following: