How does a judge determine whether to order a fitness assessment?
In order to decide whether or not there are reasonable grounds to believe the accused is “unfit to stand trial” and order an assessment, the judge or the accused’s lawyer may ask the accused things like:
- Do you know what you’re charged with?
- Do you know what the job of the judge is?
- (Pointing to the Crown) Do you know who that man/woman is?
Remember that it only matters how the accused acts in court in front of the judge, and not at the time of the offence they are said to have committed.
Whether an accused is “fit” or not can change from day to day, or even hour to hour. The accused may only need to show a very basic understanding of the process in order to satisfy the judge that he/she is “fit”. The accused doesn’t even have to act in his/her own best interests in order to be legally “fit”.