All stakeholders need to be clear on the purpose and role of appropriate adults.

The term can mean different things to different people. The key expectations and objectives of the vulnerable suspect may not align exactly with those of the health and social care teams, police and crime commissioners, police officers or the wider justice system. It’s important to listen to the views of all relevant stakeholders and to identify elements that can increase ‘buy-in’.

However, it is critical to be clear about the role as it is defined in law. Having a good understanding of the role, its aims, outcomes and activities, is an important foundation for the rest of the process.



To safeguard the interests of children and adults who may be mentally vulnerable when they are suspected of a criminal offence, ensuring that they are able to participate effectively and are treated in a fair and just manner.

 “…to act as appropriate adults to safeguard the interests of children and young persons detained or questioned by police officers”. 
Crime and Disorder Act 1998 s.38(4)
 “…to safeguard the rights, entitlements and welfare of juveniles and vulnerable adults”. 
PACE Code C 1.7A* 
*This provision is contained in the Home Office consultation on revisions to PACE Code C. It will not become live until passed by Parliament. The revisions are likley to go to Parliament in early Spring 2018. 
on Friday December 08 by chrisbath
Was this helpful?

People who are being investigated in relation to their involvement, or otherwise, in an offence are:

  • treated fairly with respect for their legal rights and welfare entitlements
  • able to participate effectively in procedures related to the investigation and any period of detention

A person is treated fairly when they are treated in compliance with their legal rights and welfare entitlements under relevant international obligations, legislation, codes of practice and approved professional practice. These include, but are not limited to: -

  1. freedom from abuse, bullying, threats, disrespectful treatment and neglect[1];
  2. freedom from unlawful restraint;
  3. an effective risk assessment by a qualified practitioner as soon as practicable and timely access to medical and mental health treatment;
  4. access to support, plus information and advice in an appropriate format on how to access it;
  5. being informed of the right to free legal advice;
  6. having someone informed that they have been detained and where they are;
  7. the right to silence;
  8. suitable accommodation, with cells that are clean, warm and lit;
  9. access to toilet and washing facilities;
  10. breaks in questioning to allow for food, drinks and rest periods;
  11. reasonable adjustments to standard provisions, criteria, practices or physical features to avoid disadvantage for people with a disability[2].

A person is able to participate effectively when they: -

  1. understand and are able to exercise their rights and entitlements (e.g. free legal advice, rest periods, food and drink, detention limits, presumption of bail);
  2. understand what investigatory and detention procedures involve (including disposals and bail conditions), why they are taking place and their significance;
  3. understand the meaning and significance of; what is said to them, questions put to them, their own replies;
  4. do not provide unreliable, misleading or self-incriminating information, without knowing or wishing to do so;
  5. do not accept or act on suggestions from others without consciously knowing or wishing to do so;
  6. are not confused or unclear about their position;
  7. are understood by police and other relevant professionals.

[1] Human Rights Act (1998), Article 2 (Right to life) includes a duty to put in place appropriate systems designed to protect the lives of individuals in state detention. According to the ECHR (2015), in relation to police detention, this includes but is not limited to bullet points 1-4 above.

on Friday December 08 by chrisbath
Was this helpful?

The criminal justice system benefits from:

  • the ability to hold people to account for their actions notwithstanding their age or other additional needs
  • a reduced risk of evidence being ruled inadmissible
  • increased legitimacy due to greater public confidence in the criminal justice system;
  • increased efficiency because there fewer voir dire (trials within trials) are required in order to determine the admissibility of evidence and fewer appeals raised to higher courts;
  • increased effectiveness increases because there is a reduced risk of miscarriages of justice and a reduced risk that the guilty are not being held accountable due to inadmissible evidence.

There are a number of related impacts relevant to policing, health and social care including:

  • preventing self-harm and suicide;
  • safeguarding children and adults from abuse and neglect;
  • improving mental or physical health outcomes;
  • improving wellbeing.

Research with service users has indicated common themes related to the promotion of wellbeing (including mental health, emotional wellbeing, personal dignity and freedom from abuse). Jessiman (2017) found that service users: -

  • Felt supported emotionally, and more protected against mockery, intimidation, fear, dehumanising, bullying and isolation
  • Appreciated the support for reasons other than those defined in PACE (identifying other personal factors such as gender or ethnicity as important in generating vulnerability)
on Friday December 08 by chrisbath
Was this helpful?


The appropriate adult is expected to be an active participant and their activities include: 

  • whether the police are treating a person in compliance with their rights and welfare entitlements;
  • whether a person’s condition/state has deteriorated or otherwise changed;
  • whether a person understands the meaning and significance of all information provided to them (including regarding their rights and entitlements, accusations against them, the caution, questions put to them and procedures including disposal options, bail conditions) and of their own replies to questions put to them;
  • whether police and other parties have understood the meaning as intended by the person
on Thursday December 07 by chrisbath
Was this helpful?
  • a person whenever they are required for any procedure as required by the PACE Codes, including: -
    • Rights and entitlements;
    • Cautions and special warnings;
    • Interviews and written statements;
    • ID procedures & consent (e.g. samples, fingerprints, footwear impressions, photos);
    • Strip searches and intimate searches;
    • The seeking and giving of consent wherever required;
    • Reviews of detention;
    • Charging and related actions (e.g. bail, police cautions).
  • a person, police and third parties whenever necessary to enable effective participation by facilitating effective communication;
  • a person to understand and execute their rights
  • a person aged under 18 for procedures as required by the Crime and Disorder Act 1998
    • Youth cautions (s.66ZA)
    • Youth conditional cautions (s.66B)
on Thursday December 07 by chrisbath
Was this helpful?
  • where they believe the treatment of a person may not be in compliance with rights and welfare entitlements, escalating through the ranks and ensuring any issue that is not solved is recorded on the interview and/or custody record;
  • if they believe the person’s condition (in relation to their vulnerability) has changed significantly;
  • where they consider it would be in the person’s best interests for a solicitor to attend;
  • wherever necessary to achieve the specified outcomes (including engaging with solicitors and medical professionals)
on Thursday December 07 by chrisbath
Was this helpful?

Mandatory presence

It is a requirement of PACE that custody officers inform the AA as soon as practicable when authorising the detention of a child or vulnerable adult.

As a minimum, AAs must be readily available for the PACE procedures for which they are required. AAs have a role throughout a detention episode, from rights and entitlements to charge and bail. However, the precise rules on involvement and physical presence are complicated and spread throughout the PACE Codes. The main elements are summarised below.

If the AA is already at the station, they must be present. If the AA is not already at the station, they must be explained again when they arrive. (Code C 3.17)

on Friday December 08 by chrisbath
Was this helpful?

An AA must always be present for a voluntary interview. An AA must be present for an interview in custody, except in some specified exceptional circumstances (Code C 11.15, 11.18)

on Friday December 08 by chrisbath
Was this helpful?

The AA must always be present. This includes samples, fingerprints, footwear impressions, photographs (Code D 2.15)

on Friday December 08 by chrisbath
Was this helpful?

An AA must be present unless it is a case of urgency where there is a risk of serious harm to the suspect or others. They can face away or stand outside the room if a child or adult prefers and the AA agrees. (Code C Annex A 11(c), Annex E 12)

on Friday December 08 by chrisbath
Was this helpful?

Yes. AA must always be present both when consent is sought and received, and for the actual search. They do not have to actually be in the room if a child prefers and the AA agrees.

on Friday December 08 by chrisbath
Was this helpful?

It is not mandatory for the AA to be physically present (though in some cases this might be more effective). Representations can be made in person, phone or electronic device. Police must make reasonable efforts to give AA notice of the time of the review. (Code C 15.2A(c), 15.3, 15CA) 

on Friday December 08 by chrisbath
Was this helpful?

Police must give the AA sufficient notice of the decision about whether a person should be charged so that the AA can be present. If they are present at the station, the AA must be present for any action resulting from the decision as to whether to charge. However, police cannot keep a person detained to wait for an AA. (Code C 16.1, 16C, Annex E 1)

on Friday December 08 by chrisbath
Was this helpful?


In addition to mandating their presence for many procedures, the PACE Codes provide a range of powerful legal rights and powers which enable AAs to be effective.  These include: -

Access to information

AAs must be allowed to access to the custody record as soon as practicable, on request during detention and for a period of 12 months after detention

They must also have access to the contents of risk assessments (if not to do so would put them at risk)

Private consultations

A vulnerable suspect has the right to a private consultation with their AA at any time during their detention.

Securing legal advice

AAs have the power to insist on the attendance of a legal advisor where a vulnerable person has waived their right to free legal advice if the AA considers it in their best interests. They cannot force them to take the advice.

Being consulted on reviews and extensions

Be given notice of the time of reviews of detention or any decision to extend the maximum detention time; have their views sought; and make representations in person or remotely.

Intervening in interviews

AAs are expected to be proactive in securing the outcomes and can intervene if anything causes them concern (though they may not obstruct questions)

Home Office guidance states that AAs are allowed to ask for a break in an interview if a vulnerable person needs a break, legal advice or the AA wishes to speak to them, the police or the solicitor.

Professional boundaries

All stakeholders should be clear on the boundaries of the role. Appropriate adults are trained lay people who can help to identify when other professionals are required. They cannot, and must not be expected to, replace professionals such as legal, clinical or communication specialists where they are required to achieve the outcomes detailed above.

Appropriate adults do not


Relevant professionals

  • Provide suspects with legal advice (though they can provide information about the law)
  •  Solicitors and other legal representatives
  •  Provide medical advice or treatment
  • Forensic physicians (akak FME)
  • Custody nurses
  • Carry out assessments of a person’s mental health or other needs
  • Liaison and diversion
  • Approved Mental Health Practitioner
  • Provide translation / interpretation services
  • Interpreter
  • Language Line
  • Facilitate communication for people with a high level of need
  • Intermediaries / speech and language therapists
  • Hold responsibility for the welfare and treatment of a person in police custody
  • Police custody sergeant
  • Monitor or inspect custody suites
  • Independent Custody Visitors
  • HM Inspectorates
  • Provide support to a person outside of police detention or voluntary interview
  • Legal representatives
  • Health and social care professionals
Download Free Designs Free Websites Templates

This website uses cookies to manage authentication, navigation, and other functions. By using our website, you agree that we can place these types of cookies on your device.

View Privacy Policy

You have declined cookies. This decision can be reversed.

You have allowed cookies to be placed on your computer. This decision can be reversed.