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Competency to stand trial

It is therefore important for all defendants to have a good understanding of what is happening in a legal process as well as the options presented to him/her in the duration of a case. This paper seeks to understand the concept of competency to stand trial in the legal sense. The paper will look at various literatures on the subject as well as the different application of the term. The paper will also look at the characteristics that signify competency and those that show or alert court officials that a defendant may be incompetent. Apart from these we shall look at different incompetency areas such as adolescents. Finally, the paper shall look at the tests and techniques for determining incompetency and finally we shall look at some of the major cases with possible incompetent defendants that have been judged in the country. Competency to stand trial is a legal construct founded on the prohibition of the English common law against trials in absentia. It is a legal construct that denotes the ability of a defendant to participate in legal proceedings for an alleged crime. Wulach (1980) delineated four legal reasons for only dealing with competent individuals during a given case. The first reason is that the accuracy of the legal proceedings is dependent on the assistance of the defendant in acquiring the case facts. Secondly, due process is dependent on the ability of the defendant to exercise their legal rights, including testifying, choosing their legal representatives and confronting their accusers. The third reason is that an incompetent defendant undermines the dignity and integrity of any legal process. And finally, the main purpose of punishment will not be achieved if the individual being sentenced is unable to understand the sanction or the reason why a given sentenced has been imposed.

Competency to stand trial