This article discusses the use of volunteers as ‘appropriate adults’, who are intended to safeguard the rights of young people during the police investigation process. It maps the historical origins of using volunteers to fulfil the role. It then highlights the shortfalls of parents and social workers as appropriate adults and evaluates the suitability of volunteers for the role. Whilst the shortcoming of parents and social workers are not disputed, nor the benefits accrued by using volunteers in the name of administrative and financial efficiency, it is argued that the effectiveness of volunteers in protecting the vulnerable suspect could be impeded by poor selection and preparation. Consequently, this article argues that the effectiveness of volunteers in this role is dependent on prompt and effective regulation and guidance. It warns the Government that if it continues with its current line of inaction, it could result in breaching its obligations under international law. Current appropriate adult practice generally may breach human rights guaranteed under international and domestic law. This article concludes that the lure of resource savings should not come at the expense of less protection for the young suspect in police custody.