When a child aged 17 or under has been arrested and the custody officer detains them, the custody officer must (where they are able) find out who is responsible for the welfare of the child and tell this person:
- that the child has been arrested,
- the reasons for the arrest of the child,
- the details of the location where the child is being held
The custody officer must also choose someone to act as an appropriate adult for the child. The police must inform this appropriate adult of the child's arrest and ask them to attend the police station as soon as possible.
An appropriate adult is someone who will be able to support, advise and assist the child. The appropriate adult will be with the child whilst the police carry out some of the procedures at the police station, such as, and not exclusively:
- giving them their rights,
- carrying out an interview,
- charging them or bailing them.
The custody officer determines who the appropriate adult is to be for the child and this depends on the circumstances. A person who a custody officer may choose to be an appropriate adult for the child:
- a parent, guardian,
- if the child is in the care of a local authority or voluntary organisation, a person representing that authority or organisation, a social worker of a local authority,
- or some other responsible adult aged 18 or over, but who is not a police officer or someone employed by the police.
A person who cannot be chosen by the custody officer to be an appropriate adult for a child:
- a suspect in the offence,
- a witness/victim in the offence,
- a person who is in some way involved in the investigation of the offence.
In circumstances where a child is estranged from their parent/guardian and the child tells the police they do not want this person to be their appropriate adult, then the custody officer would not ask this parent to act as their appropriate adult. They would find an alternative appropriate adult, such as another responsible adult over the age of 18 or a social worker etc. (someone who is not a police officer or police staff).
An appropriate adult for a child can ask the custody officer if they can talk to the child in private. In most cases, the custody officer will allow this. It is however, for them to decide, based on the circumstances of the case.
Should the police need to carry out urgent procedures before the appropriate adult arrives, they have to seek authorisation from a senior officer.