FASD & the Justice System

R. v. Ramsay, 2012 ABCA 257

Offender appeal from 8 year sentence for sexual assault, threats, confinement, assault bodily harm, obstruct justice, 3x breach recog – 41 yo, 7 prior convictions, FASD and high risk to reoffend without increased supervision or guidance – crafting a sentence for an offender with the cognitive defects associated with FASD presents two challenges: accurately assessing moral blameworthiness in light of adverse cognitive effects; and balancing protection of public against feasibility of reintegrating the offender – require medical reports assessing the prospect of rehabilitation and reintegration – broad diversity in the severity of impairments, sentencing judge must have regard to cognitive defect of particular offender – FASD diagnosis affects principles of denunciation and specific/general deterrence – where cognitive defects significantly undermine the capacity to restrain urges and impulses, to appreciate acts are morally wrong and to comprehend the causal link between the court’s punishment and the crime, the imperative for general deterrence and denunciation will be greatly mitigated – more acute cognitive deficits attract greater importance as mitigating factors and mean less weight should be given to denunciation and deterrence – executive functioning of appellant ‘significantly weak’, but sufficiently strong grasp of causal relationship between criminal act and police intervention, appellant can in some significant measure comprehend actions were legally and morally wrong – not an error in this case to consider principles of denunciation and deterrence – full and proper consideration given to FASD as it pertained to diminished responsibility and as mitigating factor.