Focus on Justice: FASD in Youth Courts
There is a well-documented over-representation of rangatahi with FASD within our courts and penal system – some studies in Canada and Australia have shown that the figure may be well over 30% and it will be similar here, if not worse.
There can often be a combination of issues: impulsivity, eagerness to please, lack of judgement and recklessness, difficulties with language and communication and more, which all contribute to teens and young adults with FASD getting in trouble. Once involved in the justice system, there are high risks to effective participation. Earlier, robust support to keep people out of the justice system, and equipping those in the justice sector to understand and support neurodiversity is required.
Our two presenters are FASD-informed in justice and communication for young adults. They know well that there must be changes in how rangitahi with FASD are treated within the justice system – and they’re part of a new shift which is beginning to ensure that happens.
HOST: Judge Tony Fitzgerald
Our host for this webinar, FASD-CAN patron Judge Fitzgerald, has been a District Court Judge for 22 years and spends about half his time in the Youth Court. Judge Fitzgerald has travelled to Canada to increase his understanding of FASD. He was a keynote speaker at the first Australasian conference on FASD and has spoken on justice issues around FASD both here and overseas many times since.
After completing a law degree at Otago University, Kesia went straight into postgraduate study. Her PhD thesis focused on young people with FASD and New Zealand's youth justice system. Since completing her PhD she has been working as a defence lawyer for the Public Defence Service in Wellington. She’s in the Porirua team and the majority of her court work is in Porirua, with a substantial amount in the Young Adult List on Friday mornings. She has two young children who keep her busy on the days that she is not working!
Sally is a speech-language therapist and court-appointed Communication Assistant. She is the Director of a social enterprise, Talking Trouble Aotearoa NZ, which is concerned with addressing the speech, language and communication needs of people involved with justice, care and protection, mental health and behaviour services. Her work as a Communication Assistant has involved many with FASD and she has assisted in trials in the Youth, District and High Court and in other settings like Police interviews, Parole Board and Family Group Conferences. Sally has worked in the UK and New Zealand as a speech-language therapist for 24 years, 20 of those in New Zealand, predominantly with children and young people and has completed FASD Multidisciplinary Diagnostic training in Canada. She has been involved research and clinical education at The University of Auckland and is an Honorary Academic there. She is on the Steering Group for the NZ FASD Diagnostic Guidelines and the Growing Up In New Zealand Scientific Advisory Group on their project about FASD. She is an Expert Advisor to the New Zealand Speech-Language Therapists' Association and later this year she will be one of twenty inaugural international Fellows at the Fair Access to Justice Hub Institute.