Friday, November 09, 2007

Appropriate Adults

If a person under the age of 17 is arrested and detained at the Police Station they must have an appropriate adult attend at the Police Station to act as a parent or guardian to ensure they understand the Police procedures, and their rights and entitlements. I often come across appropriate adults when it comes to the interviewing young defendants.

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:
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. "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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


Anonymous said...

So the father felt his boy had a moral duty to admit his wrong-doing.
Whereas you taught the lad that lying by ommission was better than owning up to his bad behaviour. And you thought you were keeping him away from bad influences in Youth Court. Unfortunately he has met you.

blueboy said...

So the father felt his boy had a moral duty to admit his wrong-doing.
Whereas you taught the lad that lying by ommission was better than owning up to his bad behaviour. And you thought you were keeping him away from bad influences in Youth Court. Unfortunately he has met you.

Gavin said...

blueboy read this:

It will explain the nature of my job to you. You might find what I do objectionable, that is your opinion to which you are entitled to hold.

blueboy said...

Thanks Gavin, read the link. A good defence but flawed. Everyone else is subject to checks and audit, whilst we have to accept almost as an article of faith that you do not concoct alibi’s or assist your clients with their lies. Where are the audio-recordings or videos of ‘consultations’ viewable on the orders of a judge for example. Unfortunately the reality is that most defence lawyers I have come across in many years of service are mainly concerned with currying favour with their chav clients to ensure a steady stream of business. And as for conviction rates of 90% or above at court; of course these rates are so high when CPS only send cast-iron cases to court.

I wouldn't wish ill upon you or yours as some do, but I don't understand how you sleep at night.

As one of your own has said, "Its only 99% of lawyers that give the rest a bad name".

Gavin said...


As I said previously you are entitled to your opinions. I do not concoct alibis or provide defences to Clients because that would be unethical. Client confidentiality is something that non-lawyers often find surprising, but it is the basis upon which solicitors and Clients have worked for many hundreds of years - it is unlikely to change. Solicitors are perhaps trusted because they are regulated in terms of having CRB checks when they are given the title of solicitr and they are under a continuing duty to report any matters such as criminal convictions.

You may have had bad experiences with solicitors - but you should not brand all solicitors with the same bad name. There are good and bad people in every profession, including solicitors.

I would guess from your comments that you are a Police Officer - and that is perhaps why we will not see eye to eye on this issue. We have both been trained from different perspectives and continued in our professional careers along veyr different paths.

blueboy said...

We aren't so different Gavin, we both make our money out of the chav-underclass. We just circulate them between us and the courts, and hopefully a few filter off in a law-abiding way of life.

Helen Sparkles said...

I find that people who enter the police force tend to be suited to its culture, the same is true of lawyers and social workers, of which I am the latter and (therefore unsurprisingly) agree with you that avoiding a young person entering the CJS is often an outcome which is in their best interersts.

Howard Wilson said...

Ignore the idiot Plod Gavin, he's talking out of his small-minded, Performance Indicator led, blinkered, arse!

Come Clean/Be Totally Honest with the Police = GET CRIMINALISED!

Fortunately for the arrested child and his father they've taken good advice, I'm sure you can cite many examples of idiots that think they know best and 'come a cropper' with a malicious copper ;-)

phatboy said...

You missed out the 'don't care parent app adult'. This is where a parent attends but really doesn't give a shit about their off-spring.

Recent example at the youth court. Against all the odds, I secured bail for a young boy accused of his 4th robbery (in breach of bail) and of breaching other bail conditions. Mother was outside complaining to me that the new condition ment she would have to take the boy to school and she didn't want the responsiblity!!!!

I wouldn't have minded but the school is a few minutes from their house and the mother doesn't work or have anything else to be doing!!!

Luckily for the boy a YOT worked agreed to take him to and from school!!

Custard Skipper said...

I can understand going no comment for a juve with no pre cons and a chance of learning not to do it again, saving them from being reprimanded and having that as a conviction. However no matter what the reason it does give the wrong message to the child as the earlier poster stated.
Perhaps if we (the old bill)were not so governed by the stick of detections and were allowed to use common sense this lad should have been warned re his conduct and NFA.
I have took the bull by the horns and NFA'd a couple on PI grounds, then I spend the next week justifying it to REMF's (Rear Echelon Mother F**!!) who send me a deluge of emails telling me I was wrong and have not followed policy!

John said...

Gavin the very fact the lad came in to the station showed he knew what he had done. The spell there with his dad etc also reinforced this. You did your job and don't need recriminations. I would like to think this lad was now on the straight and narrow. Unfortunately we cannot please everyone all the time.
Oh by the way I speak as a retired police officer and now Magistrate so feel qualified to comment.

Richard said...

Er, Gavin & Blueboy both!

We have a right to be tried by courts, not by the police, our parents or our solicitor.

Our curious justice system does not (never ever, absolutely never) unlike the dirty French system, investigate what actually happened that night last April: our system looks to see whether the prosecutor can make his charge stick ... ... or ... if he can't, then the accused walks. The suspect is under no obligation legal or moral to help the state nail him. It is for the police, customs, Inland Revenue, etc to do that, and if they can't ... ...

Magna Carta and all that garbage that we have fought for in a number of unpleasant wars...

(and, yes, I was a prosecutor, and I think that that is the right way)

Anonymous said...

Nothing to do with this blog but the verifying letters actually spelt "knife" after reading the comments and scrolling down. Bizarre!

Anonymous said...

I find it best to carry out the consultation without the A/A and then inform them of what is likely to occur in interview! Is this not the correct approach?

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