Practice and Procedure

R v M (2003)

PUBLISHED November 14, 2003

Whether a defendant was fit to plead was a matter for the jury, the judge had given admirable directions on the test to be applied and the jury's decision that he was fit to plead was not perverse.Appeal, with leave of the single judge, against the finding that the defendant ('D') was fit to plead made on 18 December 2002 at the Central Criminal Court before HH Judge Roberts QC. D was subsequently convicted of a number of sexual offences and sentenced to a total of eight years' imprisonment. It was the defence case that D suffered anterograde amnesia, a serious short term memory impairment, and was incapable of following the proceedings and giving evidence in his defence. D himself was of the view that he was fit to plead. Evidence was heard from three psychiatrists and two psychologists. All agreed he had problems with short term memory but disagreed as to whether he was fit to plead. The judge directed the jury that they had to decide whether D was suffering from a disability and, if yes, whether it rendered him unfit to plead. The judge then set out six things that D ought to be able to do. D appealed the decision on the ground that the judge misdirected the jury by setting the test too low thus enabling it to be too easily met.HELD: (1) The law on fitness to plead was clearly established in a line of authorities from R v Pritchard (1836) 7 C&PR 303. The directions given were admirable and there were no deficiencies. The test was not set at too low a level, it was a matter for the jury whether D was fit to plead or not. The jury's verdict was not perverse as there was evidence that D was fit to plead.Appeal dismissed.