Home Secretary's Commission
In her speech to the Police and Mental Health Summit 2014, Home Secretary Rt Hon Theresa May MP said:
"There is evidence to suggest that there are not enough Appropriate Adults to support vulnerable people who are in police custody. Appropriate Adults provide vital support and help to de-mystify what can be an intimidating and threatening experience. It is right that all vulnerable people can access this invaluable service. So the Home Office will commission the National Appropriate Adult Network to examine this situation and help us determine where the problems lie, and what can be done to ensure that that all vulnerable adults in police custody are able to receive the support they need from Appropriate Adults".
NAAN was commissioned in January 2015 and selected the Institute for Criminal Policy Research as academic research partners.
Full report with summary and supporting papers
- There to Help: Ensuring provision of appropriate adults for mentally vulnerable adults detained or interviewed by police (Full report - 88 pages)
Downloads by section
- Executive summary (2 pages)
- Main report (19 pages)
- A - Literature review
- B - Legislation review
- C - Case law review
- D - Results: police force data, AA scheme survey and the Liaison & Diversion Programme
- E - Results: custody sergeant survey
- F - Results: interviews of strategic stakeholders
- G - Results: discussions with people with mental vulnerabilities and experience of the justice system
- H - Analysis of costs
- I - Analysis of AA role as described by PACE Codes of Practice
- Academic research indicates 11%-22% of detained adults meet the criteria under which an appropriate adult is required;
- Police data indicates that only 3% of adult detentions include appropriate adult support;
- This suggests that as many as 235,000 police detentions and interviews of mentally vulnerable adults are being conducted without an appropriate adult each year;
- Around 50% of England and Wales has no organised appropriate adult scheme. Unlike AA support for children, since the inception of PACE more than 30 years ago, no authority or agency has ever been given legal responsibilty to ensure provision of an AA for mentally vulnerable adults;
- Police are around 5 times more likely to idenitfy vulnerability and secure an appropriate adult in areas where there are organised schemes;
- Adult social services remain the largest funder of provision but in many areas police have been forced to fund provision, raising questions around independence.
Our detailed recommendations are laid out below. In summary, they fall into six strands: -
- Funding and responsibility (the primary issue)
- Guidance for commissioners
- Support for appropriate adult schemes
Recommendations of the Home Secretary's Commission
1. To develop a new approach at a national strategic level and a vision shared by relevant departmental bodies, agencies and organisations that:
In the interests of individuals’ welfare and of justice, all mentally vulnerable adults should have access to the timely support of a competent AA throughout any period of detention in police custody or the conduct of any voluntary interview
2. To locate AA provision within existing strategic frameworks, of which the preferred option is to incorporate AA services within the liaison and diversion framework
3. To establish AA provision within a clear and consistent national framework for local co-commissioning, with commissioning co-ordinated and informed by Health and Wellbeing Boards and Safeguarding Adults Boards
4. To develop enhanced national standards to provide national support for local co-commissioning
5. To ensure consistent police record keeping on vulnerable suspects, identification of need for AAs, the securing of AAs, and where they came from
6. To integrate simple screening questions in all police custody risk assessments and ensure all custody officers have received training on vulnerability and AAs
7. To amend the PACE Codes of Practice to clarify and simplify their provisions on AAs
8. To consider amending PACE 1984 to establish an explicit statutory duty on police officers to secure an AA for all mentally vulnerable adults; and to bring greater consistency to the approach of courts on the admissibility of evidence obtained in the absence of an AA
9. To consider establishing a statutory duty to ensure provision of an AA when requested by police, to create parity with children’s AA services;
10. To provide short-term programme funding of £3m to £5m per year to support the inclusion of AA provision within mainstream budgets. This could be to 2017 (subject to integration into the liaison and diversion framework and HM Treasury approval) or longer if required.
Rt Hon Theresa May MP
"The status quo is clearly not acceptable and I was concerned to read that a number of mentally vulnerable adults, who clearly meet the current eligibility criteria in PACE Code of Practice C, do not receive the support of an appropriate adult...the priority must be to act to ensure that vulnerable people are provided with the support they are entitled to".
Lord Bradley PC
"The police work in a difficult environment with incredible time pressures. Trained appropriate adults must be quickly available wherever they are needed. Along with liaison and diversion, and street triage, they are critical part of a coherent approach to vulnerabilities which both saves money and delivers better outcomes."
Martyn Underhill, Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset and chair of the Independent Custody Visitors Association
"We are clearly not getting it right for the more vulnerable members of our communities who need that extra protection and support. When a vulnerable person comes into contact with the police, their needs deserve to be properly identified, with a needs assessment made, and for them to then be dealt with quickly and fairly. For this to happen, every area needs an organised, trained appropriate adult scheme which is totally independent of the police.”
Avtar Bhatoa, Chair of the Law Society’s Criminal Law Committee
"To ensure fair justice for all, mentally vulnerable people need the help of an appropriate adult during what can be a daunting and confusing time. With the right support, mentally vulnerable people are less likely to suffer an injustice or to waive their right to free legal advice through fear and misunderstanding, which can compound their disadvantage in the justice system. It is vital that the recommendations in this important report are implemented."
Gísli Guðjónsson CBE FBPsS, Professor of Forensic Psychology (whose expert testimony saw the convictions of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four overturned)
“Mentally vulnerable people are at increased risk of providing information which is inaccurate, unreliable or misleading. “The involvement of an appropriate adult to facilitate communication, ensure they understand their rights and are treated fairly, is absolutely critical to a fair process”.
James Bullion, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services
“Helping to support and safeguard our most vulnerable citizens, whether they are victims or suspects, is central to the role of adult social care services. Many local authorities have a long history of providing social workers or funding dedicated AA schemes. ADASS supports the report’s recommendations and is keen to work with central Government and local partners to ensure sustainable services are available for all.”
- 09/12/15 - The Guardian: The police can't prop up other struggling services forever
- 26/08/15 - The Guardian (Comment is Free): It’s time we gave our most vulnerable people proper protection in custody
- 26/08/15 - The Guardian (Society): Appropriate adult not available for many vulnerable people in police custody
- 26/08/15 - ITV News Mental health patients in police custody 'not given enough support'
- 26/08/15 - BBC News 'Appropriate adults not being used' for many vulnerable people in custody
- 26/08/15 - Huffington Post Mental Health Thousands Of Vulnerable People Are Not Getting The Support They Need In Police Custody
- 20/11/14 - Teenager with Down's syndrome who broke into his school to retrieve his favourite hat has police record wiped after 120,000 people sign petition Daily Mail
- 30/01/14 - Offenders with learning disabilities failed by criminal justice agencies Community Care
- 30/01/14 - Offenders with learning disabilities let down by criminal justice system Learning Disability Today
- 30/01/14 - Offenders with learning disabilities 'not supported' BBC
- 10/01/13 - Care not Custody is a promise worth keeping. The The Guardian
- 04/01/13 - Mental health nurses to be posted in police stations. The Guardian
- 13/10/11 - Vital role of ‘appropriate adult’ to help vulnerable people Community Care