Vulnerable People Are Not Receiving The Support Of An Appropriate Adult When In Police Custody

New Report Suggests Less Than One Fifth Get The Guidance They Are Legally Entitled To


Expert lawyers from Irwin Mitchell say that more must be done to ensure vulnerable adults and children receive the necessary support from an appropriate adult when being held in police custody.
The ‘There to Help’ report by the National Appropriate Adult Network charity found that up to a quarter of a million vulnerable adults are not receiving the support they’re entitled to whilst in police custody.

The report analysed police data and reveals that appropriate adults were used in about 45,000 of the 1.4m detentions and voluntary interviews of adults each year. However, 280,000 of those detentions involved a person who was "mentally vulnerable" and therefore entitled to support from an appropriate adult.

The current situation has been labelled as “not acceptable” by the Home Secretary Theresa May who commissioned the report. 

Irwin Mitchell assisted the charity Cerebra recently in publishing updated guides for parents of disabled children to help answer some of the commonly asked questions concerning arrest and detention.

Appropriate adults were introduced back in the 1980s to support children and vulnerable adults when they are being interviewed by police. Their role is to ensure effective communication, fair treatment and make sure that interviewees' rights and welfare are safeguarded.

Around a third of those who completed the survey said they received no training in identifying vulnerable suspects, while some reported spending hours trying to find suitable appropriate adults. On a number of occasions they admitted to sometimes asking random members of the public or proceeding to interview without one.

The recommendations in the report include a national framework for the provision of appropriate adults, a statutory duty on police officers to secure one and improvements to police training and record keeping on vulnerable adults.

Expert Opinion
“The report has raised some very serious concerns about the lack of support available for vulnerable people at a time when they need it most.

“Being arrested is a traumatic event for most people but that experience can be even worse for vulnerable adults who often find it extremely frightening.

“Every area in the country should have an organised scheme for appropriate adults and it is disappointing to see that this is clearly not the case. With proper support available it is less likely that vulnerable people will suffer from an injustice and there should be a statutory duty to arrange this support for vulnerable individuals.

“The report has given a clear recommendation on the changes that are needed and these must be implemented as quickly as possible to ensure that vulnerable people are adequately protected when coming into contact with the criminal justice system.

“Without this vital support there is a real risk of miscarriages of justice occurring.”
Fiona McGhie, Associate