Survey: FASD in Justice – Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices

Knowledge, attitudes and practices towards Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder among lawyers in New Zealand

Joanna Ting Wai Chu, Holly Wilson, Jessica C. McCormack, Valerie McGinn, Warren Brookbanks & Chris Bullen

Published online: 08 Jan 2024

This study is the first in New Zealand to survey lawyers in the justice sector about their knowledge, attitudes and practices (KAP) about FASD.

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) is a developmental disability that can cause difficulties with communication, emotional regulation and executive function, making people with FASD vulnerable to adverse involvement within the criminal justice system. Justice professionals’ knowledge and attitudes of FASD is critical to identifying appropriate responses, management and sentencing in the justice system.

Of the 56 participants, most were lawyers. All participants were aware of FASD, but gaps in knowledge and inaccurate beliefs were common. Most participants felt unprepared to support a person with FASD to navigate the justice system.

Lack of knowledge and awareness of FASD is a significant barrier to fair and equitable treatment in the justice system and ensuring people have access to the support they need. Unless FASD is recognised and accommodated, many individuals with FASD will likely spend their lives revolving through the justice system, being misunderstood in court, victimised in prisons and mismanaged in the transition back to the community. This is a substantial financial burden and social cost to society and leaves people with FASD vulnerable in the justice system.

Click here to read the full paper.