Frequently Asked Questions

How do I become an appropriate adult?

Appropriate adults are organised at a local level. NAAN provides information about the role and can help you find a local scheme.

Visit our section on becoming an appropriate adult to find out more.

Who do appropriate adults support?

The police custody sergeant is responsible for identifying people who require an AA. These fall into two categories, described below. Once the need has been identified, many police processes can not take place without an Appropriate Adult. 


  • If anyone appears to be under 18, they shall in the absence of clear evidence that they are older, be treated as a juvenile
  • The minimum age of criminal responsbility is 10 years old


  • If an officer has any suspicion, or is told in good faith, that a person of any age may be mentally disordered or otherwise mentally vulnerable, in the absence of clear evidence to dispel that suspicion, the person shall be treated as such (PACE Code C 1.4)
  • This is the case even if a healthcare professional decides the formal definition of a mental disorder is not met
  • A person is ‘mentally vulnerable’ if they may not understand the significance of what is said, of questions or of their replies, because of their mental state or capacity
  • Mental disorder means ‘any disorder or disability of mind’ as per the Mental Health Act 1983 s.1(2))
  • Relevant conditions include, but are not necessarily limited to, mental health conditions, learning disabilities, Asperger syndrome and autistic spectrum disorders, brain injury.

Who can act as an appropriate adult?

The appropriate adult role is filled by many different types of people, including: 
  • parents or other family members
  • friends or carers
  • social workers
  • charity workers
  • specalist appropropriate adults either paid or voluntary 
Some people are not allowed to be an appropriate adult: 
  • anyone under the age of 18
  • anyone who has received admissions prior to attending 
  • anyone who might be a suspect, victim, witness or otherwise involved in the investigation
  • solicitors and independent custody visitors at the police station in those capacities
  • police or employees of the police
  • the principal of a child's educational establishment (unless waiting would cause unreasonable delay and the offence is not against that establishment)
  • a person suspected of involvement in the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism
  • a person may not sit as a Magistrate in the same local justice area in which they act as an appropriate adult

Does NAAN recruit appropriate adults?

No, we do not recruit appropriate adults ourselves.

However, as the national membership charity for local AA schemes (and anyone else interested in appropriate adults) we offer information and we can help you find a local scheme.

Visit our becoming an appropriate adult section to find out more.

Are appropriate adults required for 'voluntary interviews'?

Yes. Under PACE Code C 3.21(b), appropriate adults are required for voluntary interviews of children and vulnerable adults who are suspected of an offence.

Do appropriate adults support vulnerable victims or witnesses?

It is not the role of the appropriate adult to support victims or witnesses. For more information on support for victims and witnesses visit: -

Do appropriate adults support children and vulnerable adults in court?

The appropriate adult has no role in court.

For some defendants it may be possible to secure the support of a communications specialist known as an 'intermediary'. It is up to the judges to decide whether one is needed. The intermediary provides an independent, professional assessment and clear recommendations to the court. They may be provided for part of the trial or all of it. The court can claim the costs of an intermediary from the Government.

Providers of intermediaries include:

Do appropriate adults support vulnerable children in age assessment interviews?

The role of an AA in local authority age asessment interviews is not the same as that in the criminal justice system and NAAN does not provide guidance for the role. Please see the ADCS Age Assessment Guidance and the Coram Children's Legal Centre Migrant Children's Project Factsheet.

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