The Appropriate Adults scheme is one of the schemes run by Merseyside's Police Commissioner. The scheme ensures vulnerable adults have all the support and guidance they need during the custody process.
An Appropriate Adult is a vital part of the criminal justice process, they are present to safeguard the interests and welfare of vulnerable adults to ensure their individual rights are protected.
A vulnerable person can be a young person below the age of 18 years of age, or an adult that is suffering from a mental disorder. On Merseyside, young people are already protected by the Local Authority, who act as an Appropriate Adult when no other suitable person is available. For a vulnerable adult, the first option would be a suitable family member, carer or friend, but in some cases an individual may not have anyone to support them.
In these instances, an Appropriate Adult can be a real lifeline.
During 2015, Merseyside's Police Commissioner was made aware of delays in obtaining Appropriate Adults for vulnerable adults and, as a result, she took the decision in May 2016 to commission this service on Merseyside.
Following a transparent selection process, the PCC selected The Appropriate Adult Service (TAAS) to provide this service in Merseyside for a six-month pilot period. During this pilot, the Office of the PCC worked with Merseyside Police and partner agencies to evaluate the service.
Following the success of the pilot programme, TAAS was re-commissioned to provide the service for 2017/18. Read the Key Decision detailing this process here.
TAAS provides a professional body of such people, who are available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. TAAS already provide this service in a number of other police forces, and they are now actively seeking people to get involved in Merseyside.
During 2018/19, the demand for Appropriate Adult Services increased by 41%, with more than 1,000 callouts to police custody suites and other locations across Merseyside.
TAAS have responded well to the extra demand, maintaining an average callout response time of less than 40 minutes, making sure that vulnerable people are not left for long periods in custody without support. Feedback regarding the service from vulnerable adults and custody staff is overwhelmingly positive. Because there is no clear legal guidance regarding the delivery of this service for adults, the PCC has continued to urged government to change the law to make this important provision the statutory responsibility of a specified organisation, and will continue to do so during 2019.
An Appropriate Adult should be someone who is completely independent of the police and, where possible, the detained person. They should have a sound understanding of, and experience or training in, dealing with the needs of mentally disordered people.
Under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act, which regulates the actions of the police service, a vulnerable person who is brought into police custody should have an 'Appropriate Adult' with them at certain times of their detention. This includes when a person is booked into custody and during an interview for an offence for which they have been arrested or they have voluntarily attended.
If you are interested in giving up some of your free time to help some of the most vulnerable people in the community, you can find out how to apply on the TAAS website.
If you would like more information about how the Appropriate Adult scheme works around the country, please take a look at the National Appropriate Adult Network (NAAN) website. Please note, while this website has lots of information about the scheme, it does not offer volunteering opportunities.