Police & Justice

FASD in the Justice System - the basics

According to a 2019 study in Canada, over 30% of individuals in the penal system presented with FASD, and the Banksia Hill Detention Centre project in Australia (see tab below for more information) put the figure even higher at 36% (with only 2% previously diagnosed). The figure here in Aotearoa New Zealand will be as high as that, if not higher.

As a frontline justice worker, when you come into contact with individuals who have, or are suspected to have FASD, it's essential to think about how you are communicating – the person may present as neurotypical and in fact often may have very high levels of expressive language – but there are many things you may be doing or saying that simply do not make sense to an individual with FASD.

FASD behaviour resulting from communication breakdowns could be construed as wilful and further unhelpful punitive justice may be applied.

There is an excellent article in Stuff (June 8, 2022) which discusses how an individual with FASD may present in a misleading way – click here for a 5-minute read. A three-minute video from The Asante Centre in Canada also illustrates the communication gap well. 

There are some helpful tabs below which provide a starter for those in the justice sector – particularly the two webinars created in 2022 by the NZ Public Defence Service for lawyers.