Appropriate Adult

Dorset Advocacy’s Appropriate Adult Service recruits, trains and supports independent volunteers to safeguard the interests of vulnerable adults being questioned in police custody.

Police Officer arresting a manThe Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (PACE) created the role of Appropriate Adult to ensure that adults who have learning disabilities or mental health problems who are questioned in police custody:

  • have support, particularly while they are being questioned
  • are treated properly, fairly and respectfully by the police
  • can communicate effectively with the police
  • understand their rights.

A person who is assessed as vulnerable must legally have an appropriate adult to support them. Appropriate adults can be friends or family members. But often there is no one who can be called upon and this is where Dorset Advocacy’s scheme fills the gap.

Where and when does this project operate?

The scheme operates from 8am to 10pm, seven days per week. Our volunteer Appropriate Adults cover each shift; shifts run from 8am to 12pm, 12 to 6pm and 6pm to 10pm. They are supported by a phone co-ordinator and Dorset Advocacy manager who is on call to provide support.
The scheme covers both custody centres in Dorset at Bournemouth and Weymouth.

How do I arrange an Appropriate Adult?

Referrals must come from Police Officers who are wishing to interview a vulnerable person aged 18 and over in Bournemouth or Weymouth Police Stations (or Poole when Bournemouth or Weymouth is closed).
We can support custodial and voluntary interviews. If it’s a voluntary interview, you should request an Appropriate Adult on the day of the interview.

Dorset Advocacy’s Appropriate Adult line

We have a dedicated line for Appropriate Adult calls which is monitored between 8am and 10pm. If you get the answerphone, please leave a message and we’ll get back to you. We don’t publicise the number as it is for Police use only. If you’re a Police Officer who needs an Appropriate Adult, you can get the number from Bournemouth or Weymouth Custody if you don’t have it.

Our Appropriate Adult volunteers

Our Appropriate Adults and out of hours phone coordinators are all volunteers who generously give their time to support vulnerable people when they’ve been arrested. Watch this video about our service and the work our volunteers do.

If you’d like to join our fantastic team of Appropriate Adult volunteers, visit our volunteer page.