What to do if your teen gets arrested

When your child has been arrested it is important that you make sure that they get fair treatment - no matter what they have been arrested for. You may feel angry about what has happened but try to stay calm so that you are able to support them.  

As a parent you can act as an ‘Appropriate Adult’ for your child 

An ‘Appropriate Adult’ is someone that supports a young person when they have been arrested. This means you can observe the interview between your child and the police, called a PACE interview (Police and Criminal Evidence Act interview), to ensure that it is carried out fairly and properly. Sometimes this role can be difficult because you may need to ask the police questions about what is happening. 

Before going to the police station 

You could be at the police station for up to four hours and it is important to get as much help as you can while you are there. 

Get a solicitor 

A solicitor can help prepare your child for the police interview and let them know what to say. Make sure the solicitor has enough time to talk with your child before the interview starts. If you do not have a solicitor, ask the custody officer at the police station if a duty solicitor has been called. You can ask for a solicitor to act on your child’s behalf free of charge. Be prepared to wait up to two hours for the solicitor to arrive at the police station. 

Contact your social worker 

If your child has a social worker you can contact them for advice and support. You can also contact your local Youth Offending Team for advice. 

What do I need to do on arrival? 

Check that ‘reviews’ have been carried out by asking to read the custody records. Reviews involve checking the young person’s health and that she or he has been offered food and drink. A review should happen after six hours, then every nine hours, for up to a maximum of 24 hours. But you can ask the police for food or drink for your child at any time if needed. 

Can I speak to my child alone? 

Yes, you can speak to your child in private before the interview. This is an opportunity to find out how they are feeling and if they are ready for interview. You don’t have to wait for the solicitor. 

What should I check? 

  • Your child has a solicitor. Explain to them how a solicitor can help with legal advice. 
  • The duty custody officer has given your child their rights, verbally and in writing. 
  • Your child is feeling well enough to be interviewed. How do they look? Are they upset? Have they been crying?   Are they under the effects of drugs or alcohol? If you don’t think your child is well enough you can ask for the interview to be delayed until they are. 

What happens after the interview? 

Following the interview your child may be charged and bailed, or bailed to return to the police station at a later date. If charged you should accompany him or her through the finger printing, photographing and DNA testing procedures. These can be taken without consent if charged, or following an admission of guilt. 

If bailed, countersign the bail form (47/3) and note the date, time and any conditions attached to the bail. You will be given a copy of the form.  Check the returned property and countersign the property return form. 

What if I want to make a complaint? 

There is a complaints procedure available at the police station if you wish to make a complaint against any person or part of the process involved in the detention of your child. Ask your solicitor for advice on how to complain. The police should have a leaflet explaining rights that you can take home with you. 

Further support

You can speak to your local Youth Offending Team or Children’s Services at your Local Authority.  If you have a solicitor, they can give you advice too.  

How we can help you

If you would like support and advice, you can talk to one of our Family Support Workers by calling our confidential helpline on 0808 800 2222. You can also share experiences and advice with other parents on our Forums. Family Lives is here for you and you can contact us about any family issue, big or small.

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