The definition of the role of the ‘appropriate adult’ for young suspects in the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 Code of Practice C is ambiguous and contradictory. This article argues that the role has been socially constructed by the legislator, the courts, young people, the police and appropriate adults themselves. Following various recommendations to use volunteers as appropriate adults, this article revisits the nature of the role in light of a case study of a volunteer appropriate adult service. The results demonstrate that, in terms of volunteer practice, the role has been constructed to include elements of due process, welfare and crime prevention, but has to operate within the constraints of crime control and managerialism. Hence, this article concludes that the role of the appropriate adult should be reconstructed building on the volunteers’ welfare tendencies and that, although a number of cultural and practical obstacles would have to be overcome, he or she should be joined by a mandatory legal adviser to ensure that due process is respected.