A judge has blasted the “terrible national shortage” of secure children’s homes after a dangerous 15-year-old boy with an appalling history of violence and sex attacks on women absconded and went out on the town.
Describing the disturbed Lancashire teenager’s criminal record as “terrifying”, Judge Sarah Singleton QC said he clearly posed a serious public threat.
But there were only 60 secure beds available for dangerous children, nationwide, and no placement could be found for him, she added.
Lancashire County Council had “pulled out all the stops” in their hunt for a home where the public could be protected from him.
But, following his release from his latest sentence, he had to be placed in an ordinary home with six other children.
The council laid on three extra staff to keep watch over him - but that did not stop him absconding and staying out until 5am.
The judge said: “I simply outline the facts which amount to a terrible national shortage of secure placements for children and young people who are a danger to themselves and to others.
“The reason I have delivered this judgment and propose to authorise its publication is because this case demonstrates a gross shortage of resource.”
The judge told Lancaster Family Court that the boy - referred to only as ‘A’ - was taken into care aged 13 after enduring a ‘chaotic’ childhood.
His mother had exposed him to her abuse of alcohol and drugs and violence between her and her partners and A had not lived with her since 2011.
The judge said: “The chronology establishes a terrifying history of him behaving both violently and in an assaultative manner to women.
“He has three convictions for indecent assault, perpetrated upon women, in addition to convictions for violence outside the sexual context.
“A’s victims of his non-sexual offences and of his sexual assaults include both his peers, the staff who look after him, or try to look after him, and strangers who he encounters”.
A crisis developed when A was approaching his release date from his latest sentence and Lancashire County Council applied to the judge for permission to carry on restricting his liberty by holding him in a secure children’s home for public protection.
The shortage led to A being moved into an ordinary children’s home and his ‘extremely concerning’ early hours disappearance.
Social workers had “worked round the clock” to find a placement for him before he was released, contacting the Probation Service, the Department of Education and the Ministry of Justice, all without success.