Supporting a vulnerable suspect through the use of Appropriate Adults in high-stakes crime investigations managed by an Interview Manager: Do they really provide a safeguard in an investigative interview?

Martin Vaughan*, Rebecca Milne, Gary Dalton, Zarah Vernham

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This study explored the performance of Appropriate Adults (AA) when operating in high stakes crime investigations involving suspects with a range of vulnerabilities, and whether the presence of an Interview Manager (IM) within the interview process enhanced the impact of the AA, in this critical stage of the Criminal Justice System.

Method: This study examined 50 real-life interviews (3 polices forces from England and Wales) conducted by specialist interviewers between January 2016 and December 2019 (25 with an IM and 25 without) to establish what effect the IM had on the quality of an interview with a vulnerable suspect. Adults were identified as vulnerable by means of mental health, learning disability and physical disability as well as juvenile suspects.

Results: Overall, it was found that in every interview some form of assistance was deemed necessary, and the AA should have interjected. When sub-divided into the three key areas of safeguarding; (i) legal and procedural; (ii) communication; and (iii) welfare support, the most need was required in the welfare support areas. When in need of the AA, this was missed by inaction. Even when the AA did appropriately interject this was found to be inadequately conducted. There were more missed AA safeguarding opportunities during interviews conducted with an IM than without. when there was a required intervention which was missed by the AA, there was also no intervention made by the IM across all domains in any of the 25 interviews.

Conclusion: The presence of the IM had very little bearing on the activity of the AA across all areas assessed within this paper. There should be greater emphasis of working together between the IM and the AA. This would include a joined-up approach, to ensure the safeguards of legal, communication and welfare are sufficiently met to maximise the protection of the vulnerable suspect and alleviate the potential for a miscarriage of justice.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInvestigative Interviewing: Research and Practice
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 8 May 2024


  • Appropriate Adult
  • Interview Manager
  • vulnerability
  • investigative interview

Cite this