Introducing our Patron, Judge Tony FitzGerald

Judge Tony FitzgeraldIt is with great pleasure that we announce the appointment of Judge Tony FitzGerald as Patron of FASD-CAN.  We are honoured to have him join us.

Tony FitzGerald has been a District Court Judge for 15 years.  He has previously worked in the Family Court but now spends about half his time in the Youth Court and the other half in the adult criminal Courts.  Therapeutic jurisprudence and Solution Focussed Courts are of particular interest to Judge FitzGerald. In 2007 he established the Intensive Monitoring Group (“IMG”) in the Auckland Youth Court.  The therapeutic arm of the IMG accommodates young people who are at moderate to high risk of re-offending and have moderate to severe mental health concerns and/or alcohol and other drug issues underlying their offending. The IMG now also co-ordinates what is happening for those young people in the Youth Court who have care and protection status.  Judge FitzGerald was involved in the establishment of Te Kooti o Timatanga Hou (“the Court of New Beginnings”) in 2010 and has presided in that Court since then. It is a Solution Focussed Court in the adult jurisdiction for homeless people who have impaired decision making capacity due to mental illness, neuro-disability, alcohol or other drug/substance abuse.

Judge FitzGerald has travelled to Canada to increase his understanding of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and was key note speaker at the first Australasian Conference on FASD held in Brisbane in November last year.  More recently he presented his “Unexpected Journey” into the world of FASD at the FASD Symposium held at the University of Auckland in September.

Judge FitzGerald says he has had a long held interest in issues affecting offenders with unmet health-related needs underlying their offending, including neurodisabilities such as FASD.   “In both the District and Youth Courts I meet people facing charges who suffer from FASD and other neurodisabilities.  Common characteristics of those affected, that can lead to offending, include poor emotional regulation, impulse control and social judgment.  Once they are before the Court, characteristics include such things as non-compliance with bail conditions and repetition of the same mistakes even after attending standard rehabilitation programmes.  

“In the absence of information to the contrary, such behaviours are viewed as criminal justice issues only, and therefore tend to be addressed by increasingly severe sanctions when the offending continues.  That approach is doing nothing to change the life course of those affected by the neurodisability or reduce their risk of reoffending. That is a concern both for the offender but also for the whole community because not enough is being done to address the risk of re-offending.

“By seeing the behaviour for what it is, and responding appropriately, those with a FASD are able to have productive lives and there can be significant reductions made to the risk of recidivism and the associated costs to society,” he says.  [extract:]