Explanatory Memorandum

Mental Capacity Act (Northern Ireland) 2016

2016 CHAPTER 18

9 May 2016

Commentary on Sections

Part 10 – Criminal Justice

Chapter 6 – Unfitness to Be Tried Etc
Section 204 - Procedure where question of unfitness to be tried arises

Where a person has been charged on indictment with an offence and the question arises whether he or she is fit to be tried, this section provides for procedures to be followed by the court.

The question of unfitness to be tried must be determined as soon as it arises. However, the court may postpone consideration of the question until any time up to the opening of the case for the defence if, having regard to the nature of the supposed condition of the accused, the court considers that the postponement is appropriate and in the interests of the accused. In addition, the section provides that if, before the question falls to be determined, the jury returns a verdict of acquittal on the count or each of the counts on which the accused is being tried, that question must not be determined.

The section also provides that the question of fitness to be tried is to be determined by the court without a jury. The court must not determine that the accused person is unfit to be tried unless it is satisfied on the medical evidence that this is the case.