Trouble with the law


Impulsivity, eagerness to please, lack of judgement and recklessness all contribute to a well-documented over-representation of rangatahi with FASD within our courts and penal system.

Many parents and caregivers have found it helpful to introduce their rangatahi to the local police. They can explain some of the basics of FASD to them and ensure that caregivers are called direct should their teen or young person get in trouble. 

We have a pamphlet on our resources page which you can download and either email or print out to hand over to police – you could even encourage them to ask their colleagues to read it. Click here to access our police pamphlet.

There is more information for police on our professionals page under Police and Justice, including online training for them about FASD.

It can also be a good idea for your rangatahi to carry on them a health passport which they can hand to police that will inform them that they have FASD and also has contact numbers for you. 

However, if problems with the law occur, it's very important to communicate clearly with professionals working in the justice system to ensure they can help both the parent and the young person get through this challenging time.  

If the worst happens

  • If your young person is arrested, inform police of the FASD diagnosis and areas of challenges for the young person. Ask that they not be interviewed for a statement until a lawyer or guardian is present.

  • If your young person is detained in custody, inform the custodial staff of the FASD diagnosis. Tell them about your young person’s strengths and challenges to help the custodial staff better understand them.

  • Tell the young person’s lawyer about the FASD assessment and if possible, provide a copy of the diagnostic report. This information will help the courts understand your child.

  • The parent or caregiver’s attendance in court is important to help answer questions and consider community supports.

  • If your young person is assigned to a youth justice or probation officer, parents are encouraged to communicate with that person.

  • If possible, go to appointments to ensure the young person understands the information. This will help them comply with a probation order. Probation orders can include language that is hard to understand, so ask questions. If your young person is more visual, ask about visual tools.

  • There is quality, free legal advice available from Youth Law - call 0800 UTHLAW, email at [email protected] or find them on Facebook here.

  • If your child has communication problems within a justice setting you may be able to access help from Talking Trouble Aotearoa.