Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the difference between an APPROPRIATE ADULT and an Advocate?

An advocate is present to speak on behalf of someone and communicate exactly what a person wants and assist them in achieving their aims. An Appropriate Adult is an independent person who is present during police interviews and procedures to facilitate communication between all parties.

2. When should an APPROPRIATE ADULT be used?

An appropriate adult should be used during any police interview or procedure with a person who has a mental disorder, whether they are the victim, witness, suspect or accused.

3. What is considered a mental disorder?

The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 defines mental disorder as ‘any mental illness, personality disorder or learning disability, however caused or manifested. For the purposes of this guidance, this shall include people with acquired brain injury, autistic spectrum disorder and people suffering from dementia. The guidance applies across the whole spectrum of need.

4. What can an APPROPRIATE ADULT do/can't do?

The role of an appropriate adult is to:

  • Help ensure that the interviewee understands and continues to understand why they are being interviewed, as far as is possible;
  • Help ensure that the interviewee understands the questions being put to him or her;
  • Facilitate communication where possible between the interviewee and the police officer conducting the interview;
  • In the case of a suspect or accused, ensure, as far as is possible, that the person is not disadvantaged by their disorder, that they fully understands their rights as explained to them by the police and that they continue to understand them throughout the interview;
  • Prompt the suspension of an interview in a manner agreed in advance with the interviewing officer to discuss with the police any concerns that the interview should be terminated;
  • Pause the interview if there are any particular concerns around understanding and communication;

An appropriate adult cannot:

  • Advise the person in any way;
  • Give answers for or on behalf of a person being interviewed;
  • Sign post to other services;
  • Advocate.
5. What training/experience does an APPROPRIATE ADULT need to have?

All Appropriate Adults will have been specifically recruited for their experience in the field of mental health and their communication skills. They will also have been successful in completing nationally recognised training, providing them with the appropriate knowledge required to undertake the Appropriate Adult role and function.

6. Who requests an APPROPRIATE ADULT? - How is this managed?

It is the responsibility of the police to request an appropriate adult. How this is managed will differ in each service area.

7. If a solicitor is present during a police interview, is there still a requirement for an Appropriate Adult?

Yes - The role of the Appropriate Adult does not involve providing legal advice. They are there to provide communication support and to assist the person to understand, as far as is possible, questions and procedures where their comprehension may be impaired by a mental disorder.