"Is your client fit to plead" is a question often bounded about between advocates at court. Many people latch on to the phase fit to plead in the hope that it may be a quick exist strategy from a potentially difficult trial.
In fact, before anyone can be found unfit a good deal of work has to be done. Everyone is deemed to be fit to stand trial unless there is clear expert evidence to the contrary. Before someone can be deemed to be unfit an appropriately qualified doctor will have to form the opinion that the defendant is unable to understand the course of proceedings in a trial so as to mount a defence, or they are unable to understand the evidence, or that they will be unable adequate instructions to their legal team or that they will be unable to to plead with a proper level of understanding to the charges before the court.
In fact, not one but two specialist doctors will be required to reach that conclusion and even then the final decisions rests with the court.
Where someone is unfit to stand trial and the crown prosecution service insist on going ahead, a jury will still have to be sworn but they will be considering whether the defendant has done a particular act rather than whether they have sufficient mental capacity to be found guilty.
Rather than a quick fix an investigation into someones fitness to stand trial, generally results in a good deal of delay and consideration and so it is only a course to be embarked upon when there is a real rather than a fanciful concern.
Often, the uncertainty and stress of going through the process is a difficult and ultimately unpleasant experience for many people waiting to stand trial.
At The Johnson Partnership, we aim to help anyone facing these problems by identifying issues at an early stage and instructing sympathetic and fast working psychiatrists who are used to preparing helpful reports to assist both the court and the clients.