Revisions in 2012 to the Chinese Criminal Procedure Law included, for the first time, a section on juvenile justice and a requirement that an appropriate adult accompany children in police interviews. These protective measures were the outcome of several years of engagement between Chinese legal scholars specialising in juvenile justice and British experts, facilitated by The Rights Practice.

As part of a wider joint enquiry into protecting children's pre-trial rights China's legal scholars zeroed in on the role of appropriate adults in England and Wales. While the British system provides for both an appropriate adult and lawyer to be present during police interviews of children, Chinese legal scholars saw the opportunity provided by existing law allowing a guardian to be present, to require an appropriate adult in all interviews. The presence of lawyers in Chinese police interviews would be a harder battle (and still far off).

Responding to the Chinese interest we hosted a study visit to the UK and facilitated a series of workshops in Shanghai and Yunnan involving a cross-section of British youth justice experts with backgrounds in practice (a multi-agency Youth Offending Team manager, police and youth court judge) policy making and child rights. These workshops offered not only a chance to explore the role of appropriate adults through presentations on policy as well as role playing, but also to contextualise the policy in a child rights framework and growing recognition of the child's vulnerability in the criminal justice system. A key principle was the importance of ensuring appropriate adults would be available for all children, including those not in education and whose parents may be unavailable.

Chinese interest in UK experience was driven by a Shanghai professor who had long championed better protection of children in the criminal justice system and advocated for a juvenile justice law in China. He brought together a full range of stakeholders from criminal justice agencies to representatives of academia and the emerging social work profession.

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