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PCC calls for changes in the law to provide improved protection for vulnerable adults in custody

MERSEYSIDE'S Police Commissioner has called for an urgent change to the law to guarantee support for vulnerable adults in custody after she was forced to step in to deliver the service on Merseyside. There is a legal requirement for the Police to secure an:- 'appropriate adult' (AA) to attend when they suspect that a person they have detained or wish to interview is either under 18 or may be a vulnerable person. This includes people with:- mental health conditions, learning disabilities and autism.

While Local Authorities have a clear statutory responsibility to provide this service for young people, no organisation has ever been given explicit legal responsibility for providing this service for vulnerable adults. Research published by the charity National Appropriate Adult Network (NAAN) in 2019 found nearly 20% of Local Authority areas had no organised AA scheme and Police Officers can be forced to spend hours searching for someone to fill the role.

In the absence of any other organisation stepping up to deliver this service in Merseyside, the Region's Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell has stepped in to re-commission The Appropriate Adult Service (TAAS) to deliver this service until March 2027. But, the Commissioner, who is the national lead for custody on behalf of all PCCs, is now calling upon the Government to resolve this situation by changing the law to make this service a statutory responsibility for vulnerable adults.

Merseyside's Police Commissioner Emily Spurrell said:- "It is a mark of a decent society that we give the most vulnerable people proper protection in detention, making sure they have the right help and support. People who have learning disabilities, are experiencing mental health problems or are particularly vulnerable should not be detained longer than is absolutely necessary. Despite this being a national requirement, the Government currently expects an AA service to be funded through:- 'local collaborative arrangements'. Given the devastating budget cuts all public services have faced in recent years that is simply not realistic. Public sector organisations are already struggling to deliver the services they do have a statutory responsibility to deliver, let alone stepping up to deliver the ones they are not legally required to provide. The sad truth is that this is leaving vulnerable adults detained in custody for far longer than they should be and, in some cases, individuals are being bailed without a proper case conclusion. This not only has a detrimental impact upon them, but it's also hindering the criminal justice process and having a negative impact upon victims of crime. It is completely unacceptable for a person with learning disabilities, a mental illness or autism to be detained and questioned without appropriate support. The Government cannot wash its hands of this situation any longer. Action needs to be taken urgently. This situation will only ever change if an appropriate agency or organisation is given legal responsibility for providing an AA service and the funding to deliver it. Between May 2016 and June 2021, the service delivered by TAAS has safeguarded the welfare and rights of more than 5,100 vulnerable adults in Merseyside; individuals who otherwise would not have received the support they need and deserve and to which they have a legal right. TAAS are an excellent organisation and I'm pleased they will be delivering this service in Merseyside for the next 5 years."

Where an AA is required, the person may choose for the role to be filled by a relative or guardian. However, there are often legal and logistical reasons why this is not possible. In such situations, an AA scheme provides a lifeline to both Police and suspect. AA schemes provide specially trained individuals who are independent of Police.

Chris Bath, chief executive of NAAN (National Appropriate Adult Network) said:- "It doesn't make sense to require Police to secure appropriate adults for children and vulnerable adults, but only require Local Authorities to provide for children. We are asking Police to do better at identifying people who need an appropriate adult. It is only fair for Police to expect the service exists. Policing cannot and should not do everything. Independence from the Police is fundamental to the appropriate adult role. It is the role of adult social care to support vulnerable people. They have the necessary independence, skills and expertise. They simply need the resources and the mandate."

AA's were introduced in the 1980's in the wake of miscarriages of justice based on false confessions by Police suspects. They provide support, advice and assistance during interviews and other procedures, such as:- DNA testing and strip searches. They can ensure that people have legal representation where it is in their best interests. This helps to ensure that people are treated fairly, understand what is happening, can use their rights and can communicate effectively. The absence of an AA can lead to evidence being ruled inadmissible in court.

Regional Manager for TAAS Karen Harding said:- "The Appropriate Adult Service (TAAS) are delighted to have been given the opportunity to continue to support vulnerable adults in Police custody across Merseyside. TAAS will continue to uphold the rights of detainees, whilst facilitating communication with custody staff and external agencies, and ensuring understanding and welfare. TAAS Appropriate Adult staff are committed and reliable, showing great resilience throughout the Pandemic, and are looking forward to continuing to work independently alongside Merseyside Police, ensuring that vulnerable adults are processed efficiently and fairly through the system."

Mayor and Bishop of Liverpool write open letter to Home Secretary

Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson and the Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes.

THE Mayor of Liverpool and the Bishop of Liverpool have written an open letter to the Home Secretary asking that the Government withdraws its Nationality and Borders Bill. The move comes after a motion was passed at last Wednesday's Full Council meeting requesting that the Mayor writes to Priti Patel calling for the bill to be withdrawn. The motion also requests that the Government works with Councils and communities to build a fairer and more effective asylum system. Bishop of Liverpool Paul Bayes, who will retire on 2 March 2022, is co-signatory of the letter. He has served as the Bishop of Liverpool for 8 years and his final service in the City will be on 22 February 2022.

Liverpool now joins other Local Authorities and organisations across the country in expressing concern that the Nationality and Borders Bill will create a 2 tiered system that will add further pressure on Councils and will also disproportionately affect Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities. Since 2016, Liverpool has resettled 200 refugees and is currently supporting 250 people who were evacuated from Kabul in August 2021. Liverpool City Council sets out its vision of Liverpool as a welcoming City for refugees in the Our Liverpool Refugee Strategy. The strategy's purpose is to co-ordinate the work of Council teams and other partners in supporting refugees. The Bill is currently at the committee stage in the House of Lords.

Full text of open letter:-

"Dear Home Secretary,

Liverpool is a City built on migration and we have always been proud of the part that we play in the UK providing a haven for those seeking sanctuary. People seeking sanctuary deserve the right to live in safe, welcoming and cohesive communities which allow them to build diverse relationships, make connections and rebuild their lives. Therefore, we strongly oppose the Government's Nationality and Borders Bill and we are troubled by the detrimental impact it will have on the lives of those who need our protection. In particular, the proposed Bill will exacerbate an already failing asylum system and for this reason we cannot support it in any way.

The Council passed a motion on 26 January 2022 which resolved to:-

(i) call on the UK Government to throw out the Nationality and Borders Bill

(ii) call on the UK Government to work with Local Authorities and communities to build a fairer and more effective asylum system, including the provision of viable, safe legal routes to protection in the UK.

Liverpool City Council and the Diocese of Liverpool have always endeavoured to work in partnership with your department and the Government on a range of issues; including on asylum and resettlement (such as through the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Support Scheme and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme). We are happy to be one of the core dispersal and initial accommodation centres in the UK. We are proud of the place we play in protecting and supporting vulnerable people who have suffered persecution, exploitation and (as we have seen recently with the tragedy in the Channel) unimaginably perilous journeys. These are people who are here to seek safety for themselves and their families.

The legislation you have proposed will create a hostile 2 tiered asylum system and have a widespread impact on the City of Liverpool and our Council. It is hard to comprehend that Her Majesty's Government in 2022 is planning to flout international law with what the UNHCR says is a proposal that:- 'do[es] not respect fundamental principles of refugee law.' A law born out of the ravages of the Second World War that was created to protect vulnerable people.

How someone enters the UK has no bearing on their need for protection, it is simply a reflection of the circumstances in which they have found themselves in. As Lord Kerr pointed out, your own department's figures show that 61 per cent of people crossing the Channel in the past 18 months are granted asylum at initial stage and 59% of the remaining applicants are granted at appeal. So the facts suggest that well over 70% are accepted as having a well founded fear of persecution. In the light of this, proposals in the Bill to 'offshore' the UK's responsibility for providing protection, or to warehouse people seeking asylum in detention like:- 'accommodation centres' flies in the face of our international obligations, and will stoke division and cause human suffering. The bill fails to meaningfully acknowledge the fact that for the majority of people there are no safe legal routes for protection.

Liverpool has been a dispersal area for over 20 years, a City of Sanctuary since 2012 and we published the Our Liverpool refugee, people seeking asylum and vulnerable migrant strategy in 2019. Being a welcoming City is at the heart of our work, we are proud of what we do to support and welcome people seeking asylum directly into our communities. This bill will deeply exacerbate the problems we have in our City and runs counter to our culture of inclusion and cohesion.

Your plans come at a time when we are still in the midst of a Pandemic and slowly recovering from the strains this has placed on our City. Your bill will potentially create additional burden on Liverpool to support vulnerable people through your 2 tiered asylum system. We have been working hard as a City to deal with the stresses of your department's existing No Recourse to Public Funds policy, but despite these challenges you are pushing forward a bill that will potentially create a whole new group of additional people in need of support. The burden of this will predominantly fall upon Northern Cities which host the highest numbers of people seeking asylum which seems at odds with your Government's levelling up agenda.

As Mayor and Bishop we are both committed to empowering communities and promoting equalities. This bill will have the most negative impact on Liverpool's black and Asian residents and people from other ethnic minority backgrounds. For example, your proposals on Clause 9 (no notice removal of British citizenship) strip away the British principle of due process and will potentially have the most negative impact on British people from these groups. We find it deeply disappointing that you would consider actions that work in opposition to the creation of a fairer and more equal society for all.

Your recent comments about the incident at the Women's Hospital in Liverpool only go to show that your agenda in this bill is not to create a fairer more efficient system, but is to stoke the politics of division. Your conflation of the incident with the current asylum system risked stoking discord in our communities and resulting in people (including British citizens) being harmed. It saddens us that you would take such a risk with people's safety.

Liverpool City Council is a participant in the City of Sanctuary Local Authority Network and our concerns are shared by many other Local Authorities. The Network's full response to the New Plan for Immigration can be read online. These concerns have been echoed in the Lords by the Bishops of Chelmsford, Durham and London.

Together with all our partners across the City we are asking that you abandon your plans for this bill and instead work with partners to reform the process along the following principles:-

Effective access to the asylum process.

A fair, humane and efficient asylum system.

Reception conditions that promote dignity, liberty, empowerment and integration.


Dignity, liberty and humanity for those found not to be in need of protection.

Global solidarity and responsibility sharing.

There are many elements of your bill which we find deeply worrying and we would be happy to meet with you to discuss these issues.

Joanne Anderson Paul Bayes

Mayor of Liverpool Bishop of Liverpool"

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