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New service to improve support for vulnerable suspects

A new service has been set up ensuring children and vulnerable adults receive the best possible support when being interviewed by the police.

The Appropriate Adult Service (TAAS) is being funded by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dorset as well as by Dorset and BCP Councils with support from Dorset Police and Dorset Combined Youth Justice Service.

Appropriate adults are specially trained people who must be called upon by police whenever they detain or interview a child if a parent or guardian is not able to attend.

They must also be called to attend interviews with vulnerable adults – such as people who may be suffering from a mental illness, have a learning disability, brain injury or an autism spectrum condition – who do not have anyone to support them.

appropriate adult providing support to vulnerable suspect

They are able to help with communication, welfare and legal rights and must be present for body searches and identification procedures as well as police interviews.

The new service, which was created following a process led by Dorset Council, is being launched on July 1 and will initially run for two years.

Although appropriate adult schemes have existed in Dorset previously, this is the first service to exist across the entire county and across all age ranges.

The new service will be far more resilient as staff will be trained in all needs for children, young people and vulnerable adults, and there will be a much bigger pool of trained and experienced appropriate adults to be called upon across the county.

David Sidwick, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “This new service will mean that young people and vulnerable adults will receive the support they require when they enter police custody.

“This is an important step forward which will not only protect the legal rights of vulnerable suspects, many of whom will have not been charged with any offence, but it will also improve the quality of police investigations by making sure they are informed by reliable evidence.”

Jan Steadman, Director of Criminal Justice at Dorset Police, said: “Dorset Police’s vision is to provide an outstanding service to the people of Dorset, with a particular focus on those who are most vulnerable. This means that no matter what interaction someone is having with the police, they deserve and can expect the best possible support and level of service.

“Having an appropriate adult to guide children and vulnerable adults through what can be a worrying or confusing time is just one of the ways we can support them.”

The new approach is supported by both Dorset and BCP Councils.

Cllr Mike White, BCP Council's Portfolio Holder for Children and Young People, said: “I welcome this additional support for our young people in this particularly stressful situation. It’s important that children and young people feel fully supported and communicated with and this new service will be essential in doing this.”

Cllr Andrew Parry, Dorset Council’s Portfolio Holder for Children, Education and Early Help and Cllr Laura Miller, Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “We are delighted that through working pragmatically with our partners we have collectively developed this new Dorset wide service.

“We are confident that it will provide our children, young people and vulnerable adults a quality assured responsive service. Our aim is to reduce the time that young people or vulnerable adults spend in custody and this is one step in our journey to achieving this.”

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