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Appropriate Adults

This note explains how we understand your duties as an Appropriate Adult (for simplicity referred to as 'the Adult') in the Police Station.

You are here to act as a friend of the detainee; to care for his welfare. An appropriate adult is called in whenever a detainee may need such help. This will be as a matter of course, if the detainee is a youth, or suffers some mental incapacity, but it happens in other circumstances also. Anyone arrested and held in a police station is under very considerable stress. Your are here to help the detainee cope with this stress.

Appropriate adults, and solicitors, come in all shapes and sizes, with different relationships to the detainee, and different experience of police procedures. We must work together to agree a balance between client, Adult, and solicitor. That balance will reflect the individuals and circumstances involved.

The Adult should be very careful before discussing the details of the case with the detainee. A conversation between the Adult and the detainee is not protected by legal privilege. The prosecution can summon the Adult as a witness in any eventual court case, and the Adult will be required to tell the Court what was said by the detainee in the cells. This would happen only very rarely, but care needs to be taken. We will therefore normally talk to the detained person alone first.

Because of this, there may be occasions when we ask the adult to leave, so that these details can be discussed. We urge you to support us in this. It does not reflect any lack of trust on our part. We accept that there may also be matters to be discussed between the detainee and the adult in our absence, and if you wish to discuss anything with the detainee in our absence, please just say so.

It is not the adult's task to give legal advice. In particular, the decision about whether a detainee should answer the questions is often complex. Decisions are made under great pressure and with imperfect knowledge of the case. The adult has a proper part in this decision, but it is to be made first by the detainee with the solicitor.

The interview is an opportunity for the detainee to give his version of events. He must be allowed to do so by the police officers, but officers often stray beyond these boundaries. We will intervene if we feel that the questioning is unfair. Whilst we do not always expect an intervention from the adult, you should feel free to speak up if you feel that such intervention is necessary to protect the welfare of the person detained.

However close the relationship, it is wrong for you to try to influence the detainee during the interview.

You cannot act if there is any significant possibility that you might be called as a witness of fact. If you saw any of the events which are to be discussed, or if anything else suggests this, let us know immediately. Whatever inconvenience is caused at this stage will be nothing like what may result later.

Important: Please note that our law-bytes are retained for archival purposes only. The law changes, and these notes are often, now, out of date. You must take direct advice on your own personal situation and the law as it currently stands.
All information on this site is in general and summary form only. The content of any page on this site may be out of date and or incomplete, and you should not not rely directly upon it. Take direct professional legal advice which reflects your own particular situation.
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18 October 2013 74 18 October 2013