‘Depressingly familiar scenario’ sees teenager detained in hospital due to lack of secure accommodation

A High Court judge has invited Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to contribute to litigation centred on a troubled teenage girl who has been “detained” in the side room of a hospital ward because no appropriate secure accommodation is available.

Mrs Justice Knowles has approved a plan, drawn up by council social services staff, to move to the girl, who has behavioural difficulties, from hospital to temporary rental accommodation.

She says she will re-consider the girl’s case next month and has invited lawyers representing Mr Williamson, Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza, and Ofsted, to make representations.

A number of judges have raised concern about a shortage of secure accommodation for troubled teenagers in recent years and Mrs Justice Knowles says the girl’s “scenario” is “depressingly familiar”.

In July, one of Britain’s most senior judges described a lack of “proper provision” for children who require approved secure accommodation as “scandalous”.

Supreme Court justice Lord Stephens said the problem was a scandal which contained “all the ingredients for a tragedy”.

He outlined his thoughts in a Supreme Court ruling on a case concerning another vulnerable teenager.

Mrs Justice Knowles, who is based in London, has given detail of the girl’s case in a ruling published online following private hearings in the Family Division of the High Court.

“This is, sadly, yet another case in which a young person is exhibiting emotional and behavioural difficulties consequent on past trauma where they are assessed as not meeting the criteria for detention under the Mental Health Act and the therapeutic treatment which they urgently require within a restrictive environment is not available,” she said.

“This is a depressingly familiar scenario to the judges of the Family Division.”

The judge said the girl could not be identified in media reports of the case.

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