Professional solicitors rules prevent me from acting in a dual capacity as a solicitor and an appropriate adult for a young suspect.
In my experience there are a number of different types of appropriate adults:
- Inappropriate appropriate adults - these are usually parents who act very calmly before they get in to a private room with their child, but when in the room they let rip with either a torrent of abuse against their child for dragging them to the Police Station or even sometimes physical chastisement.
- Co-defendant appropriate adults - there are occasions when parents go offending and they drag their child with them, and sometimes the Police arrest the child not knowing that the parent was in fact involved in the offence.
- "Don't care" appropriate adults - in this category you often find that a parent has not attended but some close family relative or family friend. These appropriate adults are just at the Police Station for the purposes of being there and have no interest in the young suspect at all.
- Vocal appropriate adults - these appropriate adults tend to take over the interview procedure. Although appropriate adults are told that they are not expected to sit merely as an observer in an interview the level of interruption caused by a vocal appropriate adult can sometimes get so much that the young suspect does not get a chance to properly answer questions because the appropriate adult keep interrupting.
- Social worker appropriate adults - some young suspects that I deal with have their own social worker and on occasion these poor souls get dragged down to the Police Station to deal with their 'wards'. Nine times out of ten social workers are very good appropriate adults as they rarely disrupt the procedures unless they have a genuine concern for the young suspect.
- Volunteer appropriate adults - this group of appropriate adults deserve some kind of reward for the thankless work they provide. Volunteer appropriate adults are not paid but give up their time to attend at Police Stations to assist young suspects who do not have an adult to call upon to help them out at the Police Station.
I recently dealt with a young suspect at the Police Station, and the whole case should have probably lasted one hour from the time I arrived until the time I left the Police Station, the delay in dealing with the case was down to the appropriate adult. I arrived at the Police Station and was given disclosure by the Police suggesting that a push bike had been stolen, that they had arrested a 'usual suspect' but he had denied the offence, and then my Client had walked through the door of the Police Station with a note from the 'usual suspects mother' saying that her son was innocent and that my Client would admit to the offence!
I discussed the matter with my Client and his father who had attended at the Police Station as the appropriate adult. The father fell in to the category of a vocal appropriate adult. Before I had a chance to discuss the offence I had been given my Client's life story with precise detail on his current schooling circumstances. My consultation was interrupted by the Police on at least three occasions because of the length of time it took. I eventually gave my advice, dealt with the interview and left the Police Station after three and a half hours. The father took a lot of convincing and felt that his son had a moral duty to admit to anything that he had done wrong - it took a long time to convince the father that with a lack of evidence his son's case would be dropped if he went "no comment" in the interview, and that it was probably for his sons best welfare that he did not go to Youth Court and start associating with young people who regularly commit crime and have no intention of changing their ways. On this occasion my efforts to convince the appropriate adult to act in a 'non-vocal' way reaped rewards for his son.
When I am told that a Police Station matter is ready to interview and an appropriate adult has been arranged I am always curious to see what kind of appropriate adult has attended.