The role of the appropriate adult is to facilitate communication between a mentally disordered person and the police and, as far as is possible, ensure understanding by both parties.
The use of an appropriate adult is extended to all categories of interview - witness, victim, suspect and accused.
Appropriate adults are selected for their experience in the field of mental health, learning disabilities, dementia and/or acquired brain injuries. It is their role to pick up on 'clues' and indicators that a person has not fully understood what they are being told or what they are being asked.
One of the most important aspects of this is the caution given to people by officers, which may be followed by an interview and/or charge.
An appropriate adult is allowed to intercede for the purposes of checking understanding and conferring with the interviewee or police officers about their understanding.
It is anticipated that given the background experience of an appropriate adult they would have the communication skills and tools necessary to assist a person with a mental disorder to understand more fully what is being said/asked of them. Further to this it is anticipated that they would lend their experience to the police officers conducting the interview; this may be regarding understanding but could also include opinion about the anxiety levels an interviewee is experiencing and how these may be impacting on the quality of their answers and level of understanding.
The presence of the appropriate adult is about trying to ensure equality for the person being interviewed. It is not about advocacy or speaking on behalf of a person with a mental disorder, rather it is about an independent third party checking that effective communication is taking place and that the person being interviewed is not disadvantaged in any way due to their mental disorder.