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.

FASD-informed communication is essential

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.

This three-minute video illustrates the FASD communication gap very well – there is a short discussion guide for police which goes with it, which can form an excellent starting point for awareness among all staff – it's narrated by Katrina Griffin, who has FASD herself.



There is an article from Stuff which shows the worst-case justice scenario when FASD is not taken into account early in the proceedings. 

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