FASD & the Justice System

Witnesses and victims with FASD face the same difficulties with adaptive behaviour, language, attention, reasoning and memory (ALARM CHART) as accused individuals with FASD.  Poor social skills, low comprehension levels, inability to concentrate for long periods of time or to link actions with consequences, weak short term memory and confabulation (recalling details or events that didn’t actually happen), can make interviewing a witness or victim with FASD difficult. 

In questioning by police, a victim or witness with FASD “may believe that the correct response must be whatever answer the questioner may appear to want, whether or not the response is factually true.”  (Kelly, AK. 2003).

In questioning victims, witnesses or accused with FASD or preparing them to testify at trial:

  • Use open-ended questions
  • Avoid figures of speech
  • Do not lead them in a particular direction
  • Let them tell their story
  • Be patient.

See also FASD Guidebook for Police Officers, Section 2.2. Conducting Interview and Taking Statements.

 Other approaches used by victim service workers to assist victims with FASD, include:

  • Using pictures and visual cues
  • Taking several breaks
  • Repeating information
  • Asking the client to explain what they have just been told
  • Arranging for the victim to make his/her statement to police in the office of a familiar victim service worker (instead of at the police station).

(Fraser, C. 2009)