Fitness/Competence to stand trial in Australia

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Fitness/competence to stand trial is necessary to ensure a fair trial. While international research establishes that younger juveniles in particular have difficulties with adjudicative competence relative to adult counterparts, research within Australia identifies that juvenile offenders are less likely to be referred for evaluations. The current paper presents survey results from lawyers, youth justice workers and mental health professionals, regarding juvenile offenders' potential unfitness for trial. As expected, intellectual impairment (37%), immaturity (28%) and mental illness (26%) were the most prevalent conditions. Consistent with legislation, however, immature juveniles were rarely referred for fitness evaluations. Among young offenders with intellectual disability, those of Indigenous background were significantly less likely to be referred. Pragmatic and tactical reasons were the most frequent reason for nonreferral for fitness evaluations. The findings highlight that many juveniles may proceed through the Queensland youth justice system despite being unfit for trial.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)600
Number of pages1
JournalInternational Journal of Psychology
Issue numberS1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2016


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