Non-confidential facts and advice to the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime (DMPC)
1. Introduction and background
1.1. Appropriate adults (AA) provide a critical safeguard in the justice system, protecting vulnerable suspects from unfair treatment and ensuring they can participate effectively when they are detained or otherwise questioned by police.
1.2. Police are required by law to contact and have present an AA when dealing with a suspect who is a child, or is an adult with mental ill health or other mental vulnerability. There is a statutory requirement for local authorities to ensure provision for children and young people. No explicit duty exists in relation to adults, though it has historically been part of social work.
1.3. Provision of some kind exists in almost all 32 London boroughs but there is significant variation in regards to interpretation of the responsibility, the extent of cover, and the practical arrangements.
2. Issues for consideration
2.1. The MPS has engaged with Local Authorities via London Councils. An Appropriate Adult working group was set up comprising of MPS, NHS, London Councils, NAAN, and senior representatives of Adult Safeguarding and Children’s services.
2.2. An evidence case for change was developed and presented with shared acceptance of the need for a new approach that improved the standard of provision, the coverage provided, and also reflected the changing BCU and custody landscape.
2.3. A barrier to delivery of improved provision was (as in all previous reviews) the absence of statutory responsibility for any agency to provide AA services for vulnerable adults. In the absence of statutory responsibility no organisation wishes to bear the cost of this provision, and the MPS are legally prohibited from commissioning services directly.
2.4. The solution to this issue was to offer shared funding of the ‘Adult’ element of any A/Adult contract. This offer allowed discussion to progress and reach the stage where London councils support the following approach:
a. London Councils should be the vehicle for setting an agreed approach to commissioning AA provision across local authorities.
b. Local authorities should commission AA services collectively in brigaded clusters aligned to one or more MPS BCU’s.
c. A single approach to commissioning for adults and juveniles is preferred, rather than a distinction based on local authority departments.
d. Cover should be exhaustive to cover 24/7, venues within & away from custody suites, and the full range of circumstances where an A/adult may be required.
e. Local authorities would meet all costs for Juvenile provision.
f. In the absence of statutory requirement, funding arrangements for appropriate adult provision for vulnerable adults will be shared.
3. Financial Comments
3.1. The required annual budget to initiate the proposed approach is £480,000. This will be funded through equal contributions from NHS England and MOPAC via the MPS.
3.2. The detail of the financial considerations are included within the exempt report.
4. Legal Comments
4.1. The Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 and its statutory Codes of Practice (PACE code C) recognises two groups of people who may be vulnerable when suspected of an offence:
a. People under 18 years of age (a child)
b. People who may have a mental illness, or be otherwise mentally vulnerable in this context, such as a learning disability, traumatic brain injury or autism (person who is mentally vulnerable)
These groups are considered in law to be at significant risk of various forms of poor treatment, abuses of power and ineffective participation in the process. To reduce these risks, whenever police officers treat such a person as a suspect, whether detaining them in custody or asking them to attend a voluntary interview, they are required by law to contact an Appropriate Adult (AA) and ask them to attend.
4.2. Under Schedule 3 Paragraph 7 of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 (“2011 Act”) MOPAC may enter into contracts and other agreements (whether legally binding or not), which are “calculated to facilitate, or is conducive or incidental to, the exercise of the functions of the office”. This could include making or receiving a Grant to any person or organisation if they are of the opinion that it will secure, or contribute to assisting in the discharge of duties within the Metropolitan Police District (MPD).
4.3. MOPAC has an obligation pursuant to paragraphs 3(f) under the schedule of the Elected Local Policing Bodies (Specified Information) Order 2011, as amended, to publish details of grants made, including the conditions (if any) attached to the grant, the recipient of the grant, the purpose of the grant and the reasons why it is considered that the grant would secure, or contribute to securing, crime and disorder reduction in the MPD.
4.4. Paragraph 4.8 of the MOPAC’s Scheme of Consent and Delegation provides the Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime with delegated power to make grants.
5. Commercial Issues
5.1. Detail is provided in the exempt part of the report
6. GDPR and Data Privacy
6.1. The MPS is subject to the requirements and conditions placed on it as a 'State' body to comply with the European Convention of Human Rights and the Data Protection Act (DPA) 2018. Both legislative requirements place an obligation on the MPS to process personal data fairly and lawfully in order to safeguard the rights and freedoms of individuals.
6.2. Under Article 35 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Section 57 of the DPA 2018, Data Protection Impact Assessments (DPIA) become mandatory for organisations with technologies and processes that are likely to result in a high risk to the rights of the data subjects.
6.3. The Information Assurance and Information Rights units within MPS will be consulted at all stages to ensure the project meets its compliance requirements.
7. Equality Comments
7.1. A full Equalities Impact Assessment has been completed for the Custody Target Operating Model which includes the proposed Appropriate Adult scheme and will be included in the submission of the final business case.
7.2. The improved arrangements for AA provision will have a positive impact both internally and externally, where vulnerable detainees including those with protected characteristics will receive enhanced and more timely support.