A senior judge has expressed concern after being told there is no secure accommodation anywhere in the country for a “troubled and dangerous” teenager believed to be involved in serious gangland activity.
Mr Justice Hayden said the case of 14-year-old F, who cannot be identified, raised “a dilemma you would not expect to see in a mature society in 2017”.
The judge will continue a search to find the “emotionally out-of-control” youth a place in a secure residential unit at an emergency hearing at London’s high court on Friday.
He has directed that a copy of an interim judgment he gave on Thursday be sent to the education secretary, Justine Greening.
The National Secure Welfare Commissioning Unit, which is in charge of secure children’s homes, is the responsibility of the Department for Education. “Ultimately the responsibility for this must lie with the minister of state for education,” the judge said.
He said in his ruling that he was satisfied that if F was not held in secure accommodation, “he is likely to injure himself or other persons”.
The teenager was made the subject of a care order in the London borough of Southwark in June.
Last April a consultant psychiatrist said F was suffering from difficulties stemming from life experiences in his early years and concluded he was at heightened risk of future mental health problems, including developing a personality disorder.
The judge said F was also considered at heightened risk of future offending and substance abuse.
Two days before the care order was made, F absconded from the care home in which he had been placed, and he was only found by accident when police raided a crack den in Peckham, south-east London.
The judge said: “There are real grounds for believing that he is involved in serious gangland activity and that he finds employment as a drugs courier.”
F had been investigated for an offence of rape, but that had been discontinued, said the judge.
He had a conviction related to knives and was facing an appearance before a youth court on two serious charges of robbery.
The judge said the latest crisis over his accommodation came about this week when social workers reported him being involved in an altercation with another youth at his care home at 3am on Thursday.
He was reported to have tried to get into the kitchen to retrieve knives “amid much goading about the use of knives”.
The judge said F could not go back to that care home. “I fully accept that those working within the unit are genuinely afraid of F. He can be a very intimidating individual, although not always and not to everybody.”
For two weeks Southwark social care workers had already done all they could to find him a place in a secure accommodation unit, the judge said. But they had been unable to identify anyone within relevant organisations who had the ultimate responsibility for providing places.
The search had continued in phone calls outside the courtroom at the hearing on Thursday, said the judge, but the court had reached an impasse.
One of the units identified that might offer F a placement was Aycliffe in Durham, but it had said it did not have sufficient staff or resources.
The judge said: “The situation has arisen where F cannot find accommodation of the type the court has deemed necessary to meet his interests and those of the wider public, nor can he remain in his present unit.”
The judge said he had delivered his interim judgment in open court because it was in the public interest.
He said he was following the approach of Sir James Munby, the most senior family judge in England and Wales, who in a recent case said there would be “blood on our hands” if a safe placement was not found for a suicidal teenage girl recently released from a secure unit after serving a period of youth custody.
The judge ordered the director of social services for Southwark to attend court on Friday morning, and the person ultimately in charge of decision-making at Aycliffe to be available on the telephone.