New Zealand Police v Morrison [2019] NZDC 13977

Published 22 October 2019

Sentencing — theft — assaulting a constable with intent to obstruct — threatening to kill — trespass — assaulting a constable acting in the execution of duty — failing to supply identifying particulars — foetal alcohol syndrome disorder (FASD) — Canadian Diagnostic Standard — ADHD — FASD and the criminal justice system — fitness to plead — rehabilitation — deterrence — support of persons with disabilities — Sentencing Act 2002. The defendant appeared for sentence on 22 charges of theft, three of threatening to kill, two of trespass and one each of failing to supply identifying particulars, assaulting a constable with intent to obstruct and assaulting a constable acting in the execution of their duty. He had frequently offended for over 20 years. The Court was provided a neuropsychological assessment showing that the defendant had foetal alcohol syndrome disorder (FASD). The report writer noted a cycle of the defendant getting out of prison, having no identification documents, being homeless, and stealing to get food and clothes. Sometimes the defendant would couch-surf, but he said people got sick of him. The defendant could not recall that anyone from a disability agency or other service had helped him or that he had ever been in a post release hostel. The Court discussed the symptoms of FASD, the problems that people with FASD typically have in interacting with the criminal justice system, and the criminal justice system's shortcomings in dealing with people with FASD. It was noted that the deterrent value of a sentence becomes much less effective or relevant when sentencing a person with FASD. Recidivism is reduced and reintegration increased more effectively when a person with FASD receives support and management rather than a punishment. The report writer estimated that well in excess of $2,000,000 has been spent on prosecuting and imprisoning the defendant for a multitude of petty crimes and for his inability, due to FASD, to follow Court-imposed conditions. Had even a quarter of this sum been spent on meeting the defendant's disability needs, he would have been able to live a happier and more successful, supported life, and the community would have been safer. Given the defendant's history and need for support, the Court considered that the most appropriate sentence was nine months' intensive supervision with conditions and judicial monitoring. Judgment Date: 19 July 2019.