Being arrested: your rights
Last updated: 10 May 2019

Young people and vulnerable adults

You have additional rights in police custody if you're under 18 or a vulnerable adult (over 16 with a mental illness, learning disability, brain injury or dementia).

There are different people who can be at the police station to support you, for example your parents, solicitor, social worker or an appropriate adult.

Young people under 18

The police try to avoid bringing young people to police stations. But the police do have the same powers to question young people as they do adults.

Young people under 16 (or 16 and 17 year olds who are on a compulsory supervision order)

Children under 8 can't be arrested by the police.

If you're 8 or over, the police must tell your parent or guardian that you're in police custody, even if you don't ask them to.

Your parent or guardian must attend the police station and be with you when the police interview you. They can ask another family member or friend to attend instead, if appropriate.

The police will ask a social worker or another professional to visit you instead if:

  • your parent or guardian isn't available
  • the police are concerned about your wellbeing
  • contacting your parent or guardian will affect the investigation

You can't be interviewed by the police without a solicitor being in the room with you.

If you've been accused of a serious crime, it may be reported to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the Scottish Children's Reporter Administration.

Young people aged 16 or 17

You have the right for an adult (like your parent or someone else you know over 18) to be told you're in police custody. They can visit you at the police station if you want them to.

The police can ask a social worker or another professional to visit you instead if:

  • the adult you name isn't available
  • the adult may affect your wellbeing if they visit you
  • contacting the adult will affect the investigation

If you don't want an adult told about your arrest, you must use advice from a solicitor.

You can choose not to use a solicitor, but only if the adult you name agrees to this.

If you're supervised by a social worker because of a compulsory supervision order, you have the same rights as a person under 16.

Vulnerable adults

The police can contact an 'appropriate adult' to come to the station to help you and be in the room while the police question you.

If the police think you need the help of an appropriate adult, they can get you one, even if you don't ask.

An appropriate adult can help you understand what is happening and communicate with the police. They can't give you legal advice so you must use a solicitor too.