Criminal procedure: What is an appropriate adult?

Verified 17 November 2021 - Directorate for Legal and Administrative Information (Prime Minister)

A minor involved in criminal proceedings has the right to be assisted throughout the proceedings. In principle, he is accompanied by his parents. Where the minor is unable to benefit from their presence, because their identity is unknown or because their presence is deemed harmful to him, he may choose another person himself to accompany him and assist him in the proceedings. This adult is called theappropriate adult.

A suitable adult is a person who accompanies a minor in all stages of the procedure. He is called upon when the minor's parents (holders of parental authority) or persons responsible for him (e.g. his guardian) cannot assist him.

The appropriate adult is chosen by the minor or appointed by a specialized judge when he or she considers it necessary to protect the child or the proper conduct of the investigation. It must be accepted by the persons responsible for the investigation in order to receive the information intended for the minor, to accompany him to the hearings and the hearings.

The appropriate adult should be designated in the following cases:

  • The presence of the persons responsible for the minor is not possible because they could not be reached despite the efforts made or because they are not known
  • The presence of the persons responsible for the minor may harm the interests of the child
  • It risks significantly compromising criminal proceedings

The designated person must be accepted as such by the persons responsible for the investigation.

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The minor appoints an adult who is accepted by the investigators

The minor has the right to choose a person from his or her entourage. If the adult designated by the minor is accepted by the investigators, he or she performs the duties of the appropriate adult.

The minor does not designate an adult or his choice is rejected by the investigators

It may happen that the minor does not designate any person, or that his choice has not been approved by the investigators. In such cases, a magistrate (public prosecutor, children's judge or investigative judge) appoints the appropriate adult taking into account the child's interests. 

The appropriate adult may also be a representative of a competent child protection authority or institution.

The task of the appropriate adult is to receive the information intended for the minor and to accompany him or her during the procedure.


the appropriate adult does not have all the rights granted to parents. For example, they may request a medical examination, but they cannot request the assistance of a particular lawyer.

Receive Information

The appropriate adult has the right to receive the same information as that which must be communicated to the minor during the proceedings (summons, transmission of minutes of hearing, etc.).

Accompany the minor to the hearings

The appropriate adult may accompany the minor during his or her hearings or interrogations. They may begin without the designated adult if, after 2 hours (from the time of notification), the designated adult has not reported.

The appropriate adult may request a medical examination of the detained minor. If he or she has not been able to be contacted, the medical examination of the minor is automatic and compulsory from the start of police custody.

Accompany the minor to the hearings

The appropriate adult shall have the right to accompany the minor at each hearing during the proceedings.

If the conditions that led to the appointment of the appropriate adult are no longer met, the persons responsible for the minor (parent, guardian, etc.) must regain their right to accompany the child in the procedure.