Posted: Tuesday 17th May 2016
I have been an appropriate adult for a few years now. It is demanding work, not always enjoyable but often very rewarding. When the police wish to interview a vulnerable individual, then in the interest of fairness an Appropriate Adult is called to take part in the process. An Appropriate Adult can be considered a surrogate parent or supportive friend who comes to the aid of an adult with learning difficulties or mental health issues when there is nobody else to support them. Occasionally, I have worked with young people with the same issues but this is normally work done by others.
I work voluntarily for the charity called the Brandon Trust who administer the service. They are independent of the police service and simply ensure that an appropriate adult is available when needed. This means a phone call at some random time from a very polite person who wishes you to drop whatever you are doing in order to report to a custody centre, in my case Keynsham, more or less immediately. This can be inconvenient, they take rejection very well when you say that you can’t come. They simply continue to work down their list until a kind and generous person says “Yes, I’m available”.
When you arrive at the Detention Centre, you know the officer who needs you and often a little more. If the main desk is closed there is an intercom which usually allows you to gain access to the premises. There can be a bit of waiting around so bring a good book and a warm coat as you often find yourself in a draughty corridor. Detention centres aren’t designed for comfort. The delay may be waiting for a solicitor, some sort of medical issue with the arrested individual or the police officer is tied up elsewhere. Once the process starts, my role is to support the person arrested as they progress through the legal stuff, to ease their path, to make sure they understand and aren’t over stressed. Usually, you are present when the solicitor, assuming one is involved, discusses the case with the individual. You are always present during the police interview. I have the power to interrupt proceedings if the person I’m supporting, in my view, isn’t able to respond appropriately. I am there as a friendly supporter, a reassuring face during a stressful period.
Why do I do it? Well, I can give a little back to the vulnerable in our community and help somebody who is in trouble. Each case is very different, like Shakespeare’s plays they can hilarious or deeply tragic but very rarely boring.
Avon and Somerset Appropriate Adult Volunteer