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What was it about?

This was a Home Office consultation on proposed revisions to PACE codes C (detention) and E (audio recording of suspect interviews). 

The proposals were in response to coronavirus. During the peak of the pandemic, legal representative were very concerned about the serious risk to health of attending police custody. The CPS, NPCC and Law Society agreed a joint interim interview protocol whereby interviews would be allowed to take place without legal representatives coming to the police station. Instead, lawyers have been providing legal representation during interviews by 'live link' (e.g. Skype) or 'audio link' (i.e. telephone), including for children and vulnerable adults. 

NAAN secured changes to the intial joint interim interview protocol so that version 2 included the need for police to secure the consent of appropriate adults before remote legal advice was used. The arrangements did not apply to appropriate adults, who continued to attend the police station or voluntary interview throughout. 

The proposed changes to Code C and E would mean that remote legal representation in interviews would be formalised in PACE, including for children and mentally vulnerable adults, albeit with safeguards including: 

  • A requirement for police to undertake an assessment of a person's suitability for remote legal advice
  • A requirement for consent from the suspect, appropriate adult (if required) and parent (in the case of children)
  • The provisons would initially last for 12 months.

 Consultation webpage ( - Closed 3rd July 2020.

What was NAAN's response?

NAAN's full response is available to download here. For a summary of NAAN's concerns and proposals, see below.  

What were NAAN's concerns? 

 While NAAN recognised the serious health risks posed by coronavirus, especially in custody where social distancing is not always possible, there were a number of concerns:

  1. The strategic focus should be on doing whatever is necessary to ensure police custody is safe for all. Failure to meet health and safety responsibilities to officers, lawyers and appropriate adults does not justify measures which disadvantage suspects by modifying their right to legal advice. 
  2. The use of remote legal advice for children and vulnerable adults presents a risk to the integrity of the justice system
  3. Amending the PACE Codes will normalise remote legal advice, thereby increasing the risk that measures are adopted in the long term
  4. While the amendments are intended to support the continued use of the joint interview protocol, they  can be used in isolation from the wider context of that protocol
  5. Under the joint interview protocol the safeguards (i.e. consent) are not being fully implemented and appear to have become a default route
  6. Police are not trained to deliver assessments of suitability for interviews involving remote legal advice
  7. People who have an untrained familial appropriate adult are likely to be at increased risk due to the reliance on AAs to ensure police conduct effective assessments of suitability for remote legal advice and to withhold consent appropriately
  8. Even for trained appropriate adults from organised schemes, this places significant extra responsibilities on their shoulders - and there is still no statutory provision of AAs for vulnerable adults
  9. While professionals increasingly report being content with the operation of arrangements, there is no mechanism for evaluating how clients/suspects are impacted or feel about it 
  10. The 12-month fixed period for operation of the temporary arrangements does not reflect the dynamic nature of the risk If revisions will be made without Parliamentary approval, the need for regular review is even greater.

What were NAAN's proposals?

NAAN's main proposals focused on excluding children and vulnerable adults from remote arrangements, due to the risks to justice.

  1. Shift the strategic focus from modifying suspect rights to doing whatever is necessary to achieve safe custody suites for all (e.g. by introducing checks/accountability, assigning/adapting additional rooms)
  2. Consider the availability of evidence concerning the potential impact on children and vulnerable adults
  3. Exclude any suspect for whom an AA is required from the provisions allowing remote legal advice during interview
  4. Amend Code C to explicitly state that children and vulnerable adults have a right to free legal advice in person
  5. Publish an amended joint interview protocol reflecting the above.

However, recognising that this outcome was far from certain given the level of support the protocol has from influential institutions, NAAN also provided proposals to mitigate the negative impact as much as possible for children and vulnerable adults. This included:

  • Only allowing the use of remote legal advice in interviews with children and vulnerable persons in extremis, within tightly prescribed circumstances, where social distancing is not possible and appropriate PPE is unavailable, and only where video is available
  • Excluding children and adults from audio-only (telephone) legal representation in interviews
  • Strengthening the assessment of suitability process
  • Strengthening the consent safeguards by changing the information to be given to suspects, emphasising their rights rather than efficient process; ensuring that both suspects and AAs are fully informed; making it explicit that consent can be withdrawn by either at any time; ensuring the question of remote legal advice is dealt with at the earliest possible stage by all parties; and clarifying the suspect’s options if their lawyer will not attend
  • Explicitly maintaining the link with the wider requirements of a (revised) protocol
  • Defining a clear level of risk that triggers/removes the availability of these temporary, emergency arrangements; explicitly linking the operation of the temporary arrangements to the context from which its purpose derives (e.g. legal pandemic status, health data) rather than a blanket 12 months
  • Including a formal review mechanism, with a period no shorter than 2 months between reviews, which includes relevant external stakeholders, including a role for the PACE Strategy Board to which NHS/PHE representatives should be invited.

NAAN's full response is available to download here.

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a huge impact on everyone – and this certainly includes children and vulnerable adult suspects, and the work of appropriate adults. This page provides information about developments, our activities and sources of information. It is divided into the following sections:

What NAAN has been doing

The National Appropriate Adult Network has set aside it’s agreed work plans to focus on a response. This includes three interlinked areas of activity:

  • Listening to our members
  • Providing guidance
  • Representing AAs in national forums


Sadly, we have had to cancel our national professional development days for March (Cardiff) and June (Liverpool). However, we are continuing to engage with our members via:

  • Online surveys
  • Online national meetings
  • Online forum
  • Member advice service (phone and email)


We have developed a detailed coronavirus section in the guidance for coordinators section of the website. This includes information on:

  • Working with stakeholders
  • Managing demand
  • Managing availability of AAs
  • Health and safety
  • Physical presence vs remote support

This platform has also allowed us to share with our members the following coronavirus guidance produced by other organisations:

We have also been providing regular e-updates direct to our member schemes via email (a total of 15 in the month from 17th March) .  


Coronavirus has shown us all how interlinked we are. It is now clear how critical each part of the justice system is to each other and the whole.

Since the pandemic began, we have been extremely glad of the network of contacts we’ve built up over the last few years. In fact, this network has developed even further. This has made NAAN well placed to ensure that AA work, and the children and vulnerable adults they support, are included in national responses.

Our representation work has included:

  • Twice weekly engagement with organisations critical to police custody, via a Home Office chaired operational partners group
  • Providing advice to the Crown Prosecution Service on amendments to the joint interview protocol, ensuring the needs for children and vulnerable adults to have an AA physically present are recognised
  • Direct engagement with other organisations including various police forces, Youth Justice Board, Association of YOT Managers, Youth Justice Legal Centre and the Standing Committee on Youth Justice.

What’s been happening

Demand for AAs

Demand for AA services in most areas has now reduced significantly. This reflects national police guidance around the necessity of arrests and detention and a general downturn in crime. However, our some of our member report that in their areas have not seen meaningful reductions and this is a matter of concern.

Availability of AAs

Many schemes have suffered dramatic reductions in the availability of their AAs. Volunteers make up a huge percentage of the AA workforce. Many of these people are older and a more likely to have underlying health conditions. As a result, many have had to self-isolate or shield.

In response, some YOTs (who are under a statutory duty to ensure provision for children) have turned to their staff to maintain a service. Provision for adults, as always, more difficult due to the lack of statutory provision.

However, we are pleased to say that AA schemes remain operational at this time. This is due to the dedication of coordinators, staff and the many volunteers that continue to attend despite the risks to them and their families.  

Physical attendance by AAs

AAs continue to attend custody to support children and vulnerable adults.

This is a local decision but NAAN's position is that appropriate adults should continue to attend custody, subject to three requirements:

  • Detentions/procedures are necessary (cannot be delayed or avoided) 
  • Appropriate PPE is provided to AAs by police whenever it is needed
  • The custody environment is being run in a safe manner 

If any of the three requirements are not met, the AAs should decline to attend or remove themselves from custody. 

NAAN's rationale for this position is as follows:

  • Our analysis of the PACE Codes makes it clear that core detention and interview related procedures cannot take place without an AA present and remain compliant with PACE
  • Given the nature of the children and vulnerable adults being supported, and the requirements of the AA role, physical presence is critical to achieving the outcomes of the role
  • At this time, when legal advice and interview support is commonly being provided remotely, the physical presence of the AA is even more important in safeguarding rights and interests.
  • The police have a legal duty to take reasonable measures to ensure, so far is as reasonably practicable, that custody suites are safe and without risks to the health of AAs. 
  • The three requirements reflect national guidance to police forces by the NPCC
  • AA schemes have a legal duty to adopt policies which protect their AAs where police have not taken reasonable measures

While there were some early issues, it appears that in most areas the three requirements are now typically being met. NAAN will continue to monitor the situation and provide local support.

Changes in provision of legal advice

A joint interim protocol on interviews has been agreed by the CPS, NPCC, Law Society, CLSA, and LCCSA. This advocates the delivery of remote legal advice and interview support by legal representatives.

While this is not explicitly supported by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 or its Codes of Practice, it is also not forbidden. All parties have said that this is a temporary measure in extremis to cope with this unprecedented public health crisis.

NAAN raised with the CPS that the protocol does not currently mention children, vulnerable adults or AAs. This has led to some misunderstandings whereby AAs have been invited to take part in interviews remotely. However, PACE has not been amended and it continues to be the case that an AA must be physically present for an interview of a child or vulnerable adult.

NAAN has contributed to a revised version of the protocol, which will clarify safeguards for vulnerable suspects, including the need for the physical presence of an AA. 

Virtual remand hearings

The use of virtual remand hearings (where people remain at the police station and are dealt with via video link, rather than attending court) is expanding.

We understand this process is being used with children and vulnerable adults. This raises questions about risks to fairness and effective participation.

AAs do not have a role in virtual courts. At this point the person has ceased to be a suspect held under PACE and has become a defendant. However, a number of NAAN members report being asked by police to provide support to children and vulnerable adults.

This role is outside that of an AA and has not been defined. If attending physical court, a child would have the support of a YOT court support officer, as well as access to other services. We are aware that some YOTs are providing officers to support children for virtual remand hearings – and this is to be encouraged. The question of support for vulnerable adults remains open.

NAAN has raised the issue with the Ministry of Justice, which is considering the matter.


For further information:

  • AA scheme coordinators should see our guidance for coordinators (requires organisational membership and login)
  • Scheme AAs should contact their local coordinator, however, you can refer to iKAAN, our resource for AAs (if your scheme is a NAAN member you can register for free)
  • Police should see our information for police 
  • Family members should refer to the information on this page. This provides general guidance on the AA role, and details about what the police cannot do without an AA physically present. If you have any queries about the impact of corononavirus on health and safety, please ask the police custody suite that has asked you to attend. Police are expected to provide you with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).   


2018 theretohelp


The report

Key facts



Social media

Press and Media

Latest updates


As Home Secretary, Theresa May commissioned NAAN to produce the There to Help (2015) report. The report found significant problems with the police's identification of vulnerable suspects and the availability of appropriate adults when they were required in England and Wales.

There to Help 2 follows up on progress between 2013/14 and 2017/18. It is based on data from:

The research took place prior to the significant July 2018 changes to PACE Code C relating to vulnerable adult suspects. This means that police were required to obtain an AA if they had any suspicion that a person may have had any mental disorder or was otherwise mentally vulnerable.  

The Report

  • There to Help 2 (2019): Ensuring provision of appropriate adults for mentally vulnerable adults detained or interviewed by police (Full report including executive summary - 115 pages)

Key facts

  • Police recorded the need for an appropriate adult in 6% of around 1 million adult detentions and interviews in 2017/18.
  • This was up from 3% in 2013/14, however academic studies have indicated that as many as 39% of adults in police custody have a mental disorder or intellectual disability. 
  • There were large local variations, particularly in voluntary interviews, as different police forces recorded rates of AA need between 0% to 24%.
  • If police forces with the highest rates were representative of need, at least 111,445 detentions and voluntary interviews of vulnerable adults took place without need for an AA being recorded by police (although if the actual rate of need is 39% this would be closer to 400,000 per year).
  • Certain mental illnesses were less likely to result in an AA; 54% of adults known to have dementia, and 19% known to have anxiety disorder such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), had an AA. 
  • Appropriate adults were not provided to 34% of adults known to have a learning disability and 73% of adults known to have a mental health diagnosis.
  • Where police had no access to an organised AA scheme, they were half as likely to record an adult as needing one.
  • 82% of England and Wales had some kind of organised appropriate adult scheme for adults (up from 52% in 2013/14) leaving 16% of the population in areas with no service. 
  • Adult social services remained the largest funder of provision, providing around two-thirds of funding for AAs. However, in the continud absence of a funded statutory duty, the growth in AA schemes was largely due to police forces funding provision, raising questions around independence. 


To ensure that all police forces record, retrieve, analyse and share reliable data:

  1. Forces should ensure their information systems for custody and voluntary interviews can be used by police officers to quickly and simply record and retrieve reliable data on the need for, application of, and source of AAs, cross referencing with data on protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010 (especially race and gender) to monitor for bias.

  2. At a local level, forces should ensure this data is regularly shared with the local Head of Custody, Head of Criminal Justice, Office of the PCC, AA commissioners and providers.

  3. At a national level, the NPCC should collate and share this data on an annual basis.

  4. Forces should share best practice in the design and use of information systems (encouraged and facilitated by the NPCC, College of Policing, HM Inspectorates, IOPC, and PCCs).

To ensure that police identify all vulnerable adult suspects and apply the AA safeguard correctly:

  1. The evidence base for the new (July 2018) PACE Code C definition of ‘vulnerability’ should be strengthened with research, and alternative terms considered (e.g. risks to justice, needs).

  2. The NPCC should lead a partnership to develop, test and roll out an evidence-based national screening tool that can effectively and efficiently identify when people may be a ‘vulnerable person’ as defined in PACE Code C 2018 (e.g. with College of Policing, Liaison and Diversion, and academics from forensic psychology, forensic psychiatry and law).

  3. Liaison and Diversion should screen 100% of suspects as soon as is possible in custody (subject to operational hours) and prior to any interview (including voluntary interviews).

  4. Police forces should increase officer and staff awareness of the criminal justice risks and procedural safeguards associated with vulnerable suspects in custody and voluntary interviews, supported by NAAN, NPCC and College of Policing APP and learning resources.

  5. Liaison and Diversion should ensure that its staff understand the PACE definition of vulnerability and AA requirement, through induction training and professional development.

To ensure that effective AA provision is available when and where required:

  1. The Government should achieve parity for adult suspects by establishing a funded statutory duty on local authorities to ensure AA provision which is independent of policing as required under PACE, as is the case for children under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 s.38(4).

  2. In the continued absence of a statutory duty, the Government could mirror its success with Liaison and Diversion by providing programme funding to local authorities to establish AA provision under a clear framework for ensuring standards, accountability and sustainability.

  3. The evidence base regarding the outcomes achieved by appropriate adults (for vulnerable people, police and the justice system) should be strengthened through further research.

  4. The Government should ensure that, in addition to HMICFRS, HMIP and ICVs holding police accountable for their responsibilities (identifying need and promptly contacting AAs), the commissioning and provision of AAs is made accountable via existing health and social care inspectors/regulators, recognising the importance of the AA’s independence from policing.

  5. NAAN, Home Office, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) and others should promote adherence to the National Standards (2018) and local completion of the national self-assessment tool. 


Social media

Click on the tweet below (not the Guardian article link) to view a Twitter thread by Chris Bath, highlighting the main findings and recommendations from the report. 


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