Psychological Assessment & Expert Witness Assessment

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Plead | Expert Witness Blog

Fitness to Plead

Test of Fitness to Plead in R v Pritchard



To determine whether a Defendant is fit to plead and fit to stand trial the information gathered during the expert witness psychologist assessment must be analysed in the context of the fitness to plead and fitness to stand trial test developed from the case of R v Prichard (1836) 7 C. & P. The test has developed over the years but can be stated as follows:



Does the Defendant Understand the Nature of the Offence?



Part of the assessment of fitness to plead is to test whether an individual understands the nature of the charges they face.



Fitness-to-Plead-Fitness-to-Stand-Trial

Is the Defendant Able to Comprehend the Evidence?



Defendants may have significant literacy and mental health problems. However, they may be still fit to plead with an intermediary to break the evidence down into a digestible form.



Is the Defendant able to Provide Advice to His or Her Legal Team?



Our expert psychologist evaluates whether a defendant can provide a coherent explanation of events. A defendant may be fit to plead if jury would be able to make adequate sense of the defendant’s evidence.



Additional time and additional support may need to be provided when a defendant is giving his evidence in court.



Typically, our expert psychologists consider whether there are any no apparent signs of delusions or hallucinations. If a defendant can instruct his legal advisers, even with considerable assistance they may be fit to plead.



Is the Defendant able to Understand the Course of Proceedings, So as to Make a Proper Defence?



Connected with this, under the Pritchard criteria, is the defendant’s ability to make a proper defence. Whether or not his version of events is accepted is an issue for the jury to determine.



Does the Defendant Understands the Advice, He or She is Being Given?



If the defendant is able to understand the advice and understand the information necessary to consider that advice properly, they are likely to be fit to plead.


Does the Defendant Understand the Legal Process?



Finally, one must as if the defendant understands the legal process. This means do they understand what the function of a judge is and the judge’s role? If the defendant also understands the role of the prosecution and defence barrister they are likely to be fit to plead and fit to stand trial.




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