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What does an Appropriate Adult do at the police station?

Our People - Luke Cowles
27 November, 2023

Code 1.7A states the Appropriate Adult’s role is to safeguard the rights and welfare of juveniles and vulnerable people. This may include to:

  • support, advise and assist with information given or participation in procedures under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (“PACE”) code of practices;
  • check if the police are acting fairly and properly, and if not, tell someone senior (Inspector or above).

What is an Appropriate Adult?

The Appropriate Adult is a legal role set out in Code C of PACE. Code C is a Code of Practice for the detention, treatment and questioning of people by police officers. Specifically, this will relate to questioning by the police in relation to suspected involvement in criminal offences. These questions may be after an individual has been arrested, or in a voluntary interview (“Caution Plus 3” interviews).

The Appropriate Adult has no role if you are being questioned as part of a police complaint you have made.  You can still obtain the assistance of an advocate or solicitor to assist you with this.

Who can be the Appropriate Adult to a Juvenile?

A “Juvenile” is defined in Section 42 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015. It changed the definition to someone who is under 18 (previously under 17). The Appropriate Adult can be:

  • a parent, guardian, local authority / voluntary organisation representative (if in care);
  • a social worker;
  • any other responsible adult (over 18) that isn’t connected to the police service in various ways (e.g. police officer, police staff, contractor).

Who can be the Appropriate Adult to a vulnerable person?

Code C 1.13(d) states a person is “vulnerable” if their mental health condition or mental disorder makes them someone who:

  • finds it difficult to understand or communicate about specific issues relating to their arrest, detention, voluntary attendance or being able to exercise their rights;
  • appears not to understand the significance of what they have been told, or may be for example prone to getting confused, unclear, accidentally unreliable or self-incriminating, too suggestible or too readily agreeable.

Overall, I consider the threshold is quite low as to when an Appropriate Adult may be required. This is especially given the likely gravity of the situation.

The Appropriate Adult can be:

  • A relative, guardian or someone responsible for their care
  • Someone experience in dealing with vulnerable people who aren’t connected to the police service in various ways (e.g. police officer, police staff, contractor)
  • Any other responsible person who isn’t connected to the police service in various ways (e.g. police officer, police staff, contractor)

What can I do if I think I need an Appropriate Adult?

Firstly, consider obtaining legal advice from a criminal law solicitor if you have not yet been interviewed. They may also be able to help getting an Appropriate Adult requested from the police. The Appropriate Adult’s role is not limited to only assisting at a police station either, in circumstances where the police are carrying out duties at a different venue (e.g. a prison, a hospital or a residential home).

If you have been interviewed without an Appropriate Adult, and without a solicitor, then it may be the police have breached their statutory duty to provide an Appropriate Adult. This could have serious ramifications as to validity of what you might have said in the interview. There are a number of legal remedies that may be relevant that would require expert advice.

If you would like advice on issues relating to an appropriate adult’s role in safeguarding the rights and welfare of juveniles and vulnerable people, please do not hesitate to contact one of our Actions Against Police Solicitors or get in touch on 020 8492 2290.

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