The Scottish Government said it is spending £1 million a year to help improve the support vulnerable people get if they become involved in police investigations.

Scotland has become the first part of the UK to bring in a statutory appropriate adult service – which aims to help those with conditions such as autism during their dealings with officers.

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said the scheme would help ensure the system is “fair and respectful” to all those involved – regardless of whether they are a victim, witness or suspect in a case.

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With local authorities legally required to provide appropriate adult services to vulnerable adults – defined as being those aged over 16 who could struggle to understand what is happening or to communicate with the police due to a mental disorder – ministers have committed to providing £1 million a year to ensure services are standardised across the country.

The money is being made available to local councils, with the Care Inspectorate being used to check on the quality of support services being provided.

As well as local authorities having a duty to provide appropriate adult services, police will have a duty to identify those who might be vulnerable and in need of support when they come into custody.

The changes come as a result of measures in the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 coming into force.

Mr Yousaf said: “Appropriate adults provide an essential service in the criminal justice system, helping to ensure that the rights of all vulnerable individuals are safeguarded during police procedures.

“Breaking down barriers to communication also supports the police in their investigations.

“We are the first in the UK to implement a statutory appropriate adult service, part of ensuring Scotland’s justice system remains up to date, fair and respectful of the rights and diverse needs of all who pass through it, whether they are a victim, witness, suspect or accused.”

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Tony Bowman, policy and development worker at the SOLD Network, which helps people with additional support needs involved with the justice system, said the change was “an important step forward to ensure all vulnerable people receive communication support when they come into contact with the justice system”.

He added: “Clear communication during police procedures is key to ensuring the rights of all involved are protected.

“Placing these duties on local authorities and the police will provide support to vulnerable people when needed, ensuring fairness throughout police procedures.”