Role of Appropriate Adult

Untitled Document


Whenever a Looked After child aged under 18 is arrested, the responsible Local Authority should ensure that the young person has the support of an Appropriate Adult and a solicitor while at the police station. The solicitor should have expertise in youth justice, and be provided with relevant information about the young person's circumstances and needs, including key information from the Care Plan (and Pathway Plan if they are an Eligible Child).

For more information on Appropriate Adults, including their role in supporting children and young people, and who can fulfil this role please see the National Appropriate Adult Network website.


  1. What is an Appropriate Adult?
  2. Who can be an Appropriate Adult?
  3. Who should not be an Appropriate Adult?
  4. Summary of Roles and Responsibilities of the Appropriate Adult
  5. What to do if the Police Request an Appropriate Adult
  6. Prior to Attending the Police Station

1. What is an Appropriate Adult?

When the person is a under the age of 18 years is arrested the PACE Codes of Practice require an "Appropriate Adult" to be called to the police station. The Appropriate Adult is required to be present during the course of the police interview and key stages of investigations conducted in the police station. The provision of an Appropriate Adult is intended to safeguard the rights and welfare of young people in police custody.

2. Who can be an Appropriate Adult?

The following people can be an Appropriate Adult:

  • Parent or guardian;
  • If the young person is in local authority care, or is otherwise being looked after under the Children Act 1989 a person representing that authority or organisation;
  • A local authority social worker;
  • A YOT worker.

Another responsible adult aged over 18.

3. Who should not be an Appropriate Adult?

A person should not act as Appropriate Adult if:

  • They have received admissions or denials about the offence(s) before they act as Appropriate Adult, or are a victim or witness to the offence(s);
  • They are suspected of being, or known to be, involved in the offence(s) concerned;
  • A parent who is estranged from the young person, if the young person objects.

The decision as to whether staff from the Home can fulfil this role will depend upon the circumstances and context as to why the young person is in police custody. For example:

  • If the alleged offence is not related to any reported matter against staff and/or property then it would be reasonable for staff to act as Appropriate Adult;
  • If the alleged offence is related to a matter reported by staff about any injury, matter, and/or damage to staff, possessions or company property, it would not be reasonable for staff to act as Appropriate Adult;
  • It may be reasonable for other staff to act in the role of Appropriate Adult if they work in another care home not connected with the young person.

4. Summary of Roles and Responsibilities of the Appropriate Adult

The presence of an Appropriate Adult is required:

  • When the young person is informed of their rights;
  • During a strip or intimate search;
  • During police interview;
  • When fingerprints or samples are taken;
  • When the detained person is part of any identification procedure;
  • At the point of charge.

In summary, the Appropriate Adult's key roles and responsibilities during these processes are to:

  • Ensure that the detained person understands what is happening to them and why. It is important to take into account any mental health problems, learning difficulties and speech, language and communication issues;
  • Ensure that the detained person understands their rights;
  • Support, advise and assist the detained person, particularly while they are being questioned;
  • Observe whether the police are acting properly, fairly and with respect for the rights of the detained person;
  • Facilitate communication between the police and the detained person - the Appropriate Adult plays an important role and must be pro-active in undertaking their  responsibilities. The role is not one of simply observing proceedings in the police station.

It is not the role of the Appropriate Adult to provide legal advice. Conversations between the Appropriate Adult and the young person are not covered by legal privilege – meaning they may need to divulged as part of any subsequent legal proceedings.

5. What to do if the Police Request an Appropriate Adult

The police will usually approach their local Youth Offending Team to request an Appropriate Adult. The YOT should ascertain the reasons for an Appropriate Adult being required and why a parent or guardian will not be in attendance with the young person.

If it is agreed that an Appropriate Adult will be provided, depending on local arrangements, this role will normally be undertaken by either a YOT worker or volunteer during their working hours. Outside their normal hours of duty, the police will normally contact the Emergency Duty Team, unless another organisation is commissioned to provide Appropriate Adults out of hours.

In the event of it being agreed that it is in the young person's interests for another professional, such as the Key Worker, to act as Appropriate Adult this should be agreed between the custody officer, YOT/EDT and the manager of the member of staff being asked to undertake the role.

6. Prior to Attending the Police Station

When it is agreed that a member of staff from the Home will act as Appropriate Adult, the following information needs to be established before leaving to attend the police station:

  • Full details of the young person arrested;
  • State of the young person - health and emotional;
  • Name of custody officer and name of investigating officer;
  • Details of the offence;
  • Time and place of arrest;
  • Others who have been notified;
  • Why an Appropriate Adult is needed (i.e. why is a parent or guardian not taking that role);
  • Whether a solicitor has been requested;
  • Estimated time of interview.

If the person being asked to act as Appropriate Adult is not based in a Youth Offending Team (YOT), they should contact their local YOT to make enquiries about whether the detained young person is known to the YOT. If the young person is known by the YOT, they must ask if the young person has any particular needs or difficulties. They should also ensure that the young person's social worker (or out of hours duty service) and those with parental responsibility are kept informed about the police investigations.