Northern News Services: Judge laments lack of help for offenders with FASD: Suggests defence lawyers become advocates for clients who are struggling with conditions

Judge laments lack of help for offenders with FASD: Suggests defence lawyers become advocates for clients who are struggling with conditions

By: Miranda Scotland, Northern News Services (September 7, 2013) (Accessed: September 25, 2013)

Commentary by: Krystal Glowatski

The article outlines the first case in Nunavut to address sentencing issues surrounding FASD.  In the case of 23-year-old Peter Joamie, charged and found guilty of sexual assault, the offender was handed a sentence of one year to 13 months, as requested by the Crown.  The judge outlines the lack of services available to individuals with FASD in Nunavut; alternatively, FASD is being addressed through prevention and community awareness.  Although prevention and awareness are beneficial, there is a serious need for services available to people already affected by FASD.  The judge explained that “The Baffin Correctional Centre’s 18-bed Katak Unit is fast becoming a warehouse for the mentally ill, for those suffering from FASD, and for those who are otherwise vulnerable and needing protection.”  The phenomenon of warehousing FASD individuals in prisons is not unique to Nunavut; however, the situation is expounded in a community that is so drastically depleted in available services.  While the Crown requested what the judge refered to as a “generous” sentence, the defence neglected to provide evidence of Joamie’s condition.  As the title of this article suggests, defence lawyers need to disclose such information where it may be considered in sentencing an offender.  As was recently discussed at the Consensus Development Conference on FASD and Legal Issues in Edmonton, AB, issues surrounding FASD need to be taken into account during the legal process.  Many recommendations came out of the recent Consensus Development, and perhaps with time, disclosing such information will be common practice and less people with FASD will be severely impacted by the criminal justice system.  As it is now, the criminal justice system inadvertently sets these individuals up for failure.  Responsibility has to be shared among all justice professionals to begin acknowledging FASD as a serious consideration in the criminal justice process.

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