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Fitness to stand trial and criminal responsibility assessments: Advocating for changes to the Canadian criminal code [2019]

Assessments of both fitness to stand trial and criminal responsibility are common, complex forensic evaluations with substantial societal implications. Currently in Canada, medical practitioners, in particular psychiatrists, conduct the vast majority of assessments of fitness to stand trial and criminal responsibility. Although the Criminal Code of Canada (CCC) allows these evaluations to be completed “by a medical practitioner or any other person who has been designated by the Attorney General,” in practice, qualified clinical-forensic psychologists generally have been excluded from performing these types of assessments. This article reviews the historical and contemporary evidence-based and advocacy-driven efforts to change the CCC to allow qualified professionals such as clinical-forensic psychologists to conduct assessments of criminal responsibility and fitness to stand trial. We argue that the training and experience of clinical-forensic psychologists places them in a unique and qualified position to conduct these challenging types of forensic evaluations. We therefore recommend that the Canadian federal government consider changing section 672 of the CCC to allow assessments of fitness to stand trial and criminal responsibility to be conducted by a qualified mental health professional. The change would be consistent with other sections of the CCC and would improve access of accused persons and the courts to qualified assessors. Regardless of discipline, we propose that standardized training and monitoring programs be developed and implemented to promote reliable evaluations and best practices.

Roesch, Ronald Kayfitz, Joanna Hessen Watt, Margo C. Cooper, Barry S. Guy, Laura S. Hill, David Haag, Andrew M. Pomichalek, Milan Kolton, David J. C.
Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, 2019
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