Unfitness to plead: give your views
Thursday 23 August 2012
The NI Law Commission is asking for your views on changes to unfitness to plead laws
At the request of the Department of Justice, the Northern Ireland Law Commission is considering the law relating to unfitness to plead in the crown court and magistrate's courts in Northern Ireland. This is part of the commission’s second programme of law reform.
The law in relation to unfitness to plead concerns the mental state of an accused person during his or her criminal trial. The law acts to remove those who cannot effectively participate in their trial because they don’t understand the nature or purpose of the proceedings.
On 16 July, a consultation paper was published to gather people’s views on a number of issues relating to the law. These include reviewing the current operation of the Pritchard test – a common law test that sets criteria against which unfitness to plead can be assessed – and considering whether a test based on the mental capacity test contained in the Mental Capacity Act 2005 would be a better approach for assessment. It also asks whether tests in jurisdictions such as Scotland or Jersey would be better options for Northern Ireland.
The consultation will also consider whether restrictions on the medical evidence that can be used to determine unfitness to plead should be relaxed. Plus, it seeks people’s views on whether the law, which is applicable in the crown court, should be extended to magistrate’s courts.
The Law Commission values your opinions.