Adults with vulnerabilities in custody are not receiving appropriate support
A report has found that almost a quarter of a million adults with vulnerabilities in police custody are not receiving the support of an “appropriate adult”.
A report commissioned by the Home Office has said that lack of awareness and a shortage of trained volunteers means police often go ahead without on present, reports the BBC.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the situation was “not acceptable”.
Appropriate adults are there to support young people or vulnerable adults when they are being interviewed by the police. This is to ensure effective communication, fair treatment and that interviewees’ rights and welfare are safeguarded.
Researchers analysed police data and found appropriate adults were used in about 45,000 of the 1.4m detentions and voluntary interviews of adults each year. It is estimated that 280,000 of those detentions involves a person who is “mentally vulnerable”.
Chris Bath, chief executive of the National Appropriate Adult Network, the charity which led the study, said: “People with learning disabilities, mental ill health, traumatic brain injuries or autistic spectrum disorders are some of the most vulnerable citizens, and state detention is perhaps the most vulnerable situation. We have a moral and a legal duty to ensure appropriate adults are available wherever people live.”
Mrs May added: “The status quo is not acceptable and I am concerned that vulnerable adults are not always receiving the support of an appropriate adult. We are currently examining the recommendations and implementation options to ensure that vulnerable people are provided with the support they are entitled to.”
Avtar Bhatoa, from the Law Society, said appropriate adults were needed to ensure “fair justice for all. With the right support, mentally vulnerable people are less likely to suffer an injustice or to waive their right to free legal advice through fear and misunderstanding, which can compound their disadvantage in the justice system.”
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