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Suicide risk conerns.

Society should be ashamed for not protecting a suicidal girl in secure custody, a senior judge has said.

The president of Family Division of the High Court said there would be "blood on our hands" if the 17-year-old did not receive adequate supervision.

She was due to be released in 11 days, but a secure unit place had not been found for her, a situation Sir James Munby, who has since retired, said was "utterly shaming.”

Medical director for the NHS North Region, Dr Mike Prentice, said: "A number of options have now been identified, with detailed clinical and social assessments taking place to ensure the right care package can be put in place in time."

The judgement in the case of X, who was in the formal care of Cumbria County Council, revealed she was convicted at a youth court and had been detained in custody for almost six months.

Sir James had previously noted the "enormity of the task facing the local authority" but stressed that the need for a final care plan was overwhelming.

During the latest hearing, Sir James emphasised this need, adding: "On a large number of occasions... X has made determined attempts to commit suicide".

Staff at the unit where she was being held said sending her back to her hometown would be a "suicide mission to a catastrophic level.”

The judgment said: "Staff do not think it will take more than 24 to 48 hours before they receive a phone call stating that X has made a successful attempt on her life."

An earlier ruling heard how unit staff had witnessed "a profoundly disturbing and distressing scene when X self-harmed by repeatedly banging her head and face against the wall.” Staff also said she had to be checked every 50 seconds when in the shower.

Earlier, the solicitor for the legal guardian of the teenage girl, Simon Rowbotham, said X had a "determined wish" to kill herself. She lived in a stripped-down room and was restrained "for hours on end.”

A previous judgment said that when X was younger, she "was a child with poor school attendance, low-level criminality and periods of absconding."

In Sir James' judgment, delivered in private in the High Court family division sitting in Manchester, he said: "If this is the best we can do for X, and others in similar crisis, what right do we, what right does the system, our society and indeed the state itself, have to call ourselves civilised? The honest answer to this question should make us all feel ashamed.

"I feel shame and embarrassment; shame, as a human being, as a citizen and as an agent of the state, embarrassment as president of the Family Division, and, as such, Head of Family Justice, that I can do no more for X.”

The judge said copies of the ruling would be sent to the chief executive officer of NHS England, Simon Stevens; the then home secretary, Amber Rudd; the then health secretary, Jeremy Hunt; the then education secretary, Justine Greening and justice secretary, David Lidington.

NHS sources later indicated that three possible beds had been found.

 

 

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