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Judge Orders Detention of Runaway Teenager for Her Own Safety

Individual rights to liberty are enshrined in English and European law – however, in extreme cases, the courts have power to restrict those rights to protect children from themselves and others. Exactly that happened in one case in which a 16-year-old girl was considered to be in danger from organised sex traffickers.

The girl had been in council care since she was 13 and had a history of repeatedly absconding from children’s homes. During her absences, she had abused alcohol, self-harmed and come to the attention of police on several occasions. She had come into contact with criminal elements, including those believed to be involved in sex trafficking and the abuse of children.

In those circumstances, social workers sought a secure accommodation order, under the Children Act 1989, requiring the girl’s detention in a secure environment. Granting the order, a family judge found that it was necessary to protect her from the very serious risk that she would become a victim of sex offending if she absconded again.

There were some positive signs that the girl was willing to engage with professional attempts to help her and her parents had, with some reluctance, agreed to the order being made. The judge directed that the order should be reviewed after three months and that arrangement should be put in place to maintain the girl’s contact with her family and friends.

Re B (A Child). Case Number: NE16C00247

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