Juvenile fitness for trial: Lawyer and youth justice officer professional survey

Bruce D. Watt*, Jodie O'Leary, Suzie O'Toole

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Fitness to stand trial is a necessary requisite for a fair trial in judicial proceedings. Research within Australia is limited regarding juvenile fitness for trial, though recent evidence indicates that juvenile offenders are half as likely to be found unfit to stand trial compared to adult offenders. The study surveys lawyers (n = 20) and youth justice workers (n = 20) about their experiences with juveniles in the Queensland youth justice system. Over the preceding 12 months, 133 juveniles were identified as potentially unfit. Intellectual impairment (37%), immaturity (28%), and mental illness (26%) were the most prevalent conditions. Indigenous Australians were rarely referred for mental health evaluation. In comparison, juveniles (mostly non-indigenous) with mental illness and intellectual impairment were significantly more likely to be referred for evaluation. Pragmatic and tactical reasons were most frequently given for non-referral to the Queensland Mental Health Court, which at the time decided fitness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)191-204
Number of pages14
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology and Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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