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Judge lambasts lack of secure accommodation

Case represents ‘yet another sorry example of the state failing a child in need’

In O (A child : No Available Secure Accommodation) [2018] EWFC B60 Her Honour Judge Mary Lazarus  has severely criticised a lack of secure accommodation for a 16-year old youth who, said Judge Lazarus, is "evidently at high risk of harm". The London Borough of Bromley has a care order in respect of O.

Judge Lazarus said:

"1. This case represents yet another sorry example of the state failing a child in need, and highlights the impact of there being far too few secure accommodation unit places for children like O.

2. In summary, I have been driven not to grant a secure accommodation order for a child who needs one due to the unavailability of appropriate placements.

3. That is clearly a wholly unacceptable situation. He is a child in local authority care who is at risk from his disordered background and the depredations of gang life. This is the opportunity to help him and make him safe, and it is being lost.

4. Like my colleagues before me, whose published judgments increasingly feel like heads banging against brick walls, I am dismayed, frustrated and outraged; and to quote the former President of the Family Division from last year's case of Re X (A Child) (No 3) [2017] EWHC 2036 (Fam), I am deeply worried about the risk that 'we will have blood on our hands'."

Judge Lazarus found that O case "is not so exceptional as to justify making an order where no placement is available for him; it is not in his interests for such an order to start to run while he is still in the community; and to grant an order in these circumstances would defeat the immediate safeguarding purpose and the spirit and intention of the legislation."

The judge directed that the judgment be sent to the Secretary of State for Education, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and to the Children's Commissioner for England.

For the judgment, click here. For an article about the case in the Guardian, click here.