Athens Co. Juevnile Judge Supports New Competency Standards

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Athens County Juvenile Judge Robert Stewart says children are not miniature adults and that's why juevnile court competency standards are changing.

A new state law will create new standards for determining whether juvenile defendants are competent for court.

People in the legal and psychological communities say the new standards will protect the children and mean less

Athens County Juvenile Judge Robert Stewart was a guest on WOUB T-V's Newswatch last night.

"The standard is designed to recognize both the change in the law and the change in the procedure we use. Children are not miniature adults. They are completely different issues with respect to the physical development of the brain, their maturity, their intellectual capacity. These things are now being taken into consideration in making these important decisions," says Stewart.

The new state law taking effect Sept. 30 provides psychologists and psychiatrists with four sets of characteristics to signal whether a juvenile is competent.

Children may be found competent only when they: grasp the seriousness of the charges; comprehend the adversarial nature of the court proceedings and the part the judge plays; can help with their defense; and can understand the potential consequences.

Lawyers, judges and clinicians currently use the same standards with children as they do when considering the competency of grown-ups. "Juvenile norms" are supposed to be applied, though there's nothing spelling out what that means.