Fitness to stand trial: views of criminal lawyers and forensic mental health experts regarding the role of neuropsychological assessment
The role of expert opinion, including neuropsychological assessment, in fitness to stand trial (FST) determinations has been viewed as advantageous by practitioners and empirical researchers. The purpose of this study was to examine the views of criminal lawyers and forensic mental health experts regarding the quality and usefulness of neuropsychological assessments in FST decisions within the Australian context. Thirty-five semi-formal interviews were conducted. Respondents' understanding of and experience with neuropsychology and cognitive assessment techniques were explored. Respondents viewed neuropsychological assessment as beneficial in FST cases, particularly those involving intellectual disability, traumatic brain injury or other organic brain disorders, although many had limited understanding and experience with the discipline. Mental health experts reported using varied cognitive assessment techniques and approaches to assessing the relevant legal (Presser) criteria. The perceived quality of neuropsychological reports was generally positive. Several barriers to comprehensive assessment were identified by respondents. Respondents identified areas for improvement for neuropsychological report writers.