FASD & Justice

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This website has been developed as a resource for justice professionals and others who want to understand and recognise cognitive impairments and possible Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders in people engaging with the criminal justice system.



The Australian Guide to the Diagnosis of FASD was published in May 2016


Australian Diagnostic subcategories

  • FASD with three sentinel facial features (similar to the previous diagnostic category of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome)
  • FASD with less than three sentinel facial features (which encompasses the previous diagnostic categories of Partial Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Neurodevelopmental Disorder-Alcohol Exposed)



 Released: 5 May 2016     Updated: 13 May 2016

Australian Guide to the Diagnosis of FASD




Although the use of 'fetal' may imply that these conditions only relate to babies; children, young people and adults can have one of these conditions. The effects of fetal alcohol exposure are life-long and may not be seen at birth.



Problems arising from the brain damage caused by prenatal alcohol exposure include:

  • developmental delay
  • problems with learning
  • problems with behaviour and social functioning
  • poor executive functioning (attention, judgement, decision making, comprehension, memory, reasoning, problem solving, planning )
  • poor adaptive functioning (how a person functions with daily activities in different environments - managing money, home life, schedules, getting from place to place, obeying rules and laws)



These can lead to secondary outcomes such as:

  • poor school performance
  • unemployment
  • substance abuse
  • mental health problems
  • early engagement in the justice system



People with a FASD may interact with the justice system at all levels and in all jurisdictions: as offenders, victims, witnesses or other parties in criminal, civil and child protection and family law matters.



Understanding the underlying reasons for the behaviour that has brought the child or young person into contact with the justice system and providing the appropriate services and supports is critical to reducing the likelihood of reoffending.



Professionals involved in the justice system need to develop an understanding of FASD. Early and effective intervention may prevent further harm to others, or the imposition of orders on a person who has a FASD who is unable to comply, or incarceration.



If you have any questions related to this website please contact Heather Jones or call +61 8 9489 7724




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