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:
- Activities: What NAAN has been doing for members
- Developments: What's been happening
- Information: Where to find more information
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:
- National custody guidance (NPCC)
- Briefing on children and young people (NPCC)
- Joint interim protocol on interviews (CPS, NPCC, Law Society, CLSA, LCCSA)
- Interim charging protocol (CPS)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).