Vulnerable adults in Avon and Somerset are being supported by a scheme to provide them with Appropriate Adults when they are detained in police custody.
Appropriate Adults are volunteers who assist vulnerable detainees in understanding the custody process.
They provide independent and impartial support and ensure that detainees understand their rights, are treated fairly and assist with communication between the person and officials.
The scheme aims to reduce delays and unnecessary stress for vulnerable people in custody. It aims to make the custody process fair for all while optimising efficient communication between vulnerable detainees and the police.
Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Sue Mountstevens has been working in partnership with learning disability charity Brandon Trust since July, to provide support to vulnerable adults when they have been arrested and need to be interviewed in Patchway and Keynsham police centres.
In Somerset the same scheme is run by Somerset’s Youth Offending Team.
PCC Sue Mountstevens said: “When a vulnerable adult is detained or being interviewed by police the involvement of an appropriate adult to facilitate communication and ensure they understand their rights is extremely important to the individual involved.
“I am pleased that through these newly commissioned services the Brandon Trust are now co-ordinating this service and I would particularly like to recognise and thank the independent volunteers for the time and energy they give to support others at such a difficult time.”
Sarah Cording from the Appropriate Adult Scheme at Brandon Trust said: “Our trained Appropriate Adult volunteers work with people who are vulnerable – people with learning disabilities, with mental illness or presenting a vulnerability.
“They work as an advocate for the person’s rights and are dedicated to making sure the person understands the process.
“The scheme has been a resounding success so far; assisting with 65 cases since July across two Police centres in Patchway and Keynsham.
“We are looking for more volunteers to join our devoted team. Anyone who is over 18-years-old can apply; you don’t need specific knowledge as you will be given training and won’t be required to give legal advice.
“You might be passionate about equal rights or keen to help people who are vulnerable. If you are inspired to assist and support others, get in contact.
“We’ll provide you with training and mentoring to give you the skills and expertise you need for this rewarding volunteer role in the justice system.”
Tom Whitworth, who co-ordinates the Appropriate Adult scheme in Somerset said: “The Appropriate Adult scheme in Somerset relies upon volunteers.
“I am continually impressed by the skill and dedication demonstrated by these members of our local community who freely give up time and energy to make this scheme work.”
Dan Pinsker, Custody Logistics Coordinator said: “Appropriate adults are very important for both the detained person and the police.
“They provide independent support to safeguard the welfare and rights of vulnerable adults that have been arrested and need to be interviewed by officers. They assist the vulnerable person in understanding the custody process.
“The work of appropriate adults results in vulnerable people being interviewed quicker and being kept in custody for less time; speeding up the investigative process for officers and making the experience as efficient and reducing stress for the person.”
The Appropriate Adult scheme is funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner, the police and Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Somerset County Council.