Exploring the Vulnerabilities of Individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders to, and within, Criminal Justice System Encounters
Prof Penny Cook P.A.Cook@salford.ac.uk
Background: Individuals with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), a condition caused by alcohol exposure in the womb, are 19 times more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system (CJS). Despite the potential for a high prevalence of Individuals with FASD within the CJS, empirical evidence is sparse.
Aim: I aimed to empirically explore the factors that predispose the FASD population to CJS encounters and the factors that impact outcomes during investigative interviews.
Methods: A ‘fluidly’ sequential exploratory mixed methods design is employed in this thesis. Four studies were conducted: a scoping review, two qualitative studies, and one quantitative study. The scoping review examined the existing literature regarding the performance of individuals with FASD during investigative interviews, and informed the design of the other studies. The qualitative studies with 14 parents/carers of Individuals with FASD and 10 individuals (age range: 11 – 46 years) with FASD explored the experiences/perceptions about predisposing factors to CJS encounters and experiences during investigative interviews. Within the quantitative study, memory, impulsivity, IQ, compliance, and interrogative suggestibility were assessed in 27 young people (aged 11 – 16 years old) with FASD and 25 neurotypical controls of similar age. Results from the qualitative studies were triangulated with those from the quantitative study.
Results: The systematic review revealed that only five empirical studies had been published on the performance of individuals with FASD during CJS encounters. Interviews with parents highlighted vulnerabilities that lead to frequent CJS encounters of their children, emphasised the need for more awareness from professionals (about FASD) while also highlighting that their children had significant strengths and abilities despite their impairments. Individuals with FASD reported that professionals lacked knowledge about FASD; they demonstrated self-awareness of their impulsivity and suggestibility and expressed remorse. They also recognised their strengths and abilities. Quantitative assessments with the FASD group revealed significantly poorer memory recall, lower IQ, higher total suggestibility (immediately and after one week), and higher impulsivity when compared to neurotypical controls of similar age.
Conclusion: There is a need for the CJS to establish whether suspects, witnesses, and victims of crimes may have been impacted by prenatal alcohol exposure, since this can lead to significant vulnerability. The findings from this study will contribute to informing policy and practice regarding the training of professionals, alongside screening, and support for individuals who are suspected to be impacted by prenatal alcohol exposure, reducing the chances of miscarriage of justice.
Gilbert, D. (2023). Exploring the Vulnerabilities of Individuals with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders to, and within, Criminal Justice System Encounters. (Thesis). University of Salford
|Publication Date||Jun 30, 2023|
|Deposit Date||Jun 27, 2023|
|Publicly Available Date||Jul 1, 2025|
This file is under embargo until Jul 1, 2025 due to copyright reasons.
Contact D.J.Gilbert@edu.salford.ac.uk to request a copy for personal use.
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