Evaluating Fitness to Stand Trial in Australia

Mr Grant Blake1, Professor James Ogloff1, Associate Professor Rachael Fullam1, Dr Chelsea Leach2

1Centre For Forensic Behavioural Science, Swinburne University, Alphington, Australia, 2Grant Blake Psychology, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, Australia, 3Forensic Children and Youth Mental Health Service, Brisbane, Australia

Fitness to stand trial has been the subject of numerous law reviews and legislative changes in recent years. It remains to be a contentious topic because a lack of standardised assessments invariably results in diverse assessment methods, diverse opinion formation strategies, unreliable outcomes, time delays, and increased costs to stakeholders.

The following symposia presents the results from a body of work that aimed to develop and validate the Australian and New Zealand Evaluation of Fitness to Stand Trial – Revised (ANZ-EFST-R). The ANZ-EFST-R is a 28-item semi-structured interview of the Presser abilities, with an additional 28-item structured interview to screen for feigned mental illness and feigned unfitness. The individual studies include:

  • A psychometric meta-analysis of international competency to stand trial measures;
  • A review of Australian fitness legislation and case law;
  • A retrospective analysis of 248 fitness to stand trial reports prepared in Victoria;
  • A pilot test of the proposed interview items with the public;
  • An expert consensus review of the test items; and
  • An interrater reliability study of two ANZ-EFST-R administrations.

Recently, the ANZ-EFST-R underwent further revision for use with youth in Queensland. The symposia will conclude by outlining the extensive modification process to ensure that the test is developmentally and culturally fair, then present the preliminary validation data. The presenters will explain how a copy of the ANZ-EFST-R may be obtained from the researchers for inclusion in the ongoing in-vivo validation research.


Mr Blake is a clinical psychologist in private practice, a doctoral researcher with the Centre for Forensic Behavioural Science, and a sessional researcher with Swinburne University. He has a particular interest in forensic psychological assessment, PTSD, malinering, and psychometric test development. His PhD thesis involved developing the Australian and New Zealand Evaluation of Fitness to Stand Trial – Revised (ANZ-EFST-R).

Dr Leach is a forensic psychologist in private practice and a lead researcher at the Forensic Children and Youth Mental Health Service in Brisbane (QLD). She has special interests in the treatment of complex trauma in adults, and the forensic assessment of vulnerable youth.

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