A day in the life of a Volunteer – Catherine from South Yorkshire Appropriate Adults
“I received a call from the Appropriate Adult Scheme Project Manager, at 11am regarding a request from South York’s Police. An Appropriate Adult needed to attend Doncaster Custody Suite to support a 39-year-old male (Brian*) with autism and learning disabilities. He had been arrested on suspicion of Criminal Damage and Section 4 Public Order Act.
At first, I thought it would be pretty straight forward. Then I was informed that Brian had told custody staff he would assault the adult and solicitor and had been hostile and aggressive. I was starting to worry about how I would handle the situation.
My Project Manager and I discussed strategies to minimise the risk of harm to ensure my safety was paramount. For example, I would not have a private consultation with Brian – but introduce myself briefly and explain my role with police officers present. Although I had been through the risk assessment, I still felt anxious but was grateful I had the time to think things through and think of possible situations that might arise.
When I arrived at the police station the custody staff straight away told me the risks regarding Brian’s behaviour and I explained my concerns to them. They understood and agreed that two officers should be with me at all times.
The officers who were working with Brian had concerns about his mental health and fitness to be interviewed and had requested a mental health assessment. Liaison and Diversion staff had already met with Brian and had extensive conversations with him, his parents and other professionals he had had contact with. He was deemed mentally fit for interview.
It was then decided that the two officers, the solicitor and I would go to the cell with the Custody Sergeant to meet with Brian before the interview to introduce ourselves. He was very calm and smiled at me. I knew I had to gain his trust and that started from first meeting him. I explained I was there to help and support him. It was then agreed that we would go to an interview which went much better than I had anticipated.
I explained to Brian that he would have to go back to his cell until a decision was made by CPS. He became very angry at this and became aggressive towards the custody staff. It struck me as though Brian didn’t understand what was being asked of him. I expressed my concerns to the Custody Sergeant who agreed to come with me to Brian’s cell so I could try again to explain in a simpler way what the next steps were. Brian said he understood and calmed down.
The Custody Sergeant thanked me for picking this up and said he wished I could return later to help as I had gained Brian’s trust. I agreed with my manager over the phone that on this occasion, due to the nature of the issues, I would return to ensure Brian understood what was required of him and to answer any questions or concerns he may have.
When I returned at 19:30 Brian was distressed and I was asked to see him with an officer. When I arrived at his cell he immediately calmed down. I reassured him that I was there for him and would explain everything to him. He was charged and remanded for court the next morning. I sat with Brian and explained all this to him at his cell door with an officer close by as a safeguard.
Before I left custody I again explained to Brian the process for the night and in the morning prior to him being taken to court. He said he understood and would like to thank me from the bottom of his heart for listening to him and being there for him and being so understanding. Situations like this are why I chose to volunteer – I’m so glad I could help Brian.”
Appropriate Adults support vulnerable people suspected of being involved in a criminal offence when parents or carers are unable or unwilling to attend. They support people through police procedures such as interview, witnessing drugs tests and witness disposal. If you would like to find out more about volunteering and apply for an Appropriate Adults role, you can find out more here.
*Name of service user changed to preserve anonymity.