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Assessment and Reporting for Pre-trial Issues


Psychological assessment in relation to confessions


Individuals with low IQ, but some others also, can exhibit abnormal acquiescence, compliance or suggestibility. Tere is also a general tendency among this group towards confabulation (making up a memory to fill a memory gap).


None of these phenomena are necessarily present in people with intellectual disabilities, and the best approach to forming an opinion on their presence or absence may be through the use of appropriate psychometric tests.


Within police interviews, the individual may behave so as to avoid the anxiety of conflict inherent in the situation by agreeing to what is put to them (either acquiescing with what is being put to them or being compliant), with the potential for emitting falsely incriminating statements or even confessions (see Chapter 5).


Fitness to plead and stand trial


Te assessment of a defendant’s fitness to plead and stand trial is based upon their mental state or condition at the time of trial. Te trial can only proceed if the defendant is fit to plead and stand trial. Psychiatric and/or psychological evidence directed towards the issue is required, but the issue is ultimately determined legally. Tere might be subtle differences in the legal test for ‘unfitness’ in different jurisdictions, but in common law jurisdictions all derive from the case of R v Pritchard:


• Whether the defendant is of sufficient intellect to comprehend the course of the proceedings of the trial, so as to make a proper defence, to challenge a juror to who he might wish to object, and


to understand the details of the evidence Tis is usually interpreted as relating to separate criteria:


• Understanding the charges • Deciding on whether to enter a guilty or not guilty plea • Being able to challenge a juror • Being able to instruct legal representatives before and during any trial • Understanding the details of the evidence • Giving evidence in their defence


Assessment should be as close to trial as possible, and if an assessment of fitness to plead is not close to trial then there should be re-assessment.


Te assessment should include a full psychiatric assessment, but specifically include the following:


• Ask the defendant to give an account of why they are required to attend court • Enquire about their understanding of the legal process • Enquire about their understanding of the different roles of people in court


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