Judge approves suicidal girl care plan

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Sir James Munby
Image caption,
Sir James said the approved care plan was "not a matter for congratulation"

A judge who said society should be "ashamed" for not protecting a suicidal girl has approved a care plan for her.

The girl, known as X, will be moved to a special unit on Thursday after doctors managed to find her a place.

Sir James Munby, head of the family courts in England and Wales, said the provision of care "should not be dependent" on legal involvement.

The secure unit where the 17-year-old has been living has spent £125,000 on extra staff to care for her.

The unit - which has not been named - said the Youth Justice Board "failed" to provide additional resources to maintain X's safety despite repeated requests.

The details were revealed in the latest judgement in her case.

Three social care staff were said to be off work suffering from "stress and anxiety" due to the "unusual experiences" they had observed with the girl.

'Shame and embarrassment'

Sir James, who previously criticised the lack of supervision available for the girl, said the latest development was "not a matter for congratulation".

He spoke out last Thursday to say there would be "blood on our hands" if the teenager did not receive adequate supervision upon her release from secure custody.

He made his comments after finding out a secure unit place had not been found for the girl, who had made several suicide attempts.

In Sir James' judgement, he said: "I feel shame and embarrassment; shame, as a human being, as a citizen and as an agent of the State... that I can do no more for X."

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

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 said she must be checked every 50 seconds when she is in the shower.

The unit has said 13 young people who were also being detained at the centre complained the quality of the care they were receiving was "in breach of their statutory rights" because staff had to attend to X and had less time to organise activities for them.

Following the latest ruling, the judge said X should not be "privileged" because her case came before a senior judge.

He added: "I emphasise this because a mass of informed, if anecdotal, opinion indicates that X's is not an isolated case and that there are far too many young women in similar predicaments. How are they to be protected?"

Sir James said the publication of his judgment last Thursday had "prompted substantial coverage", with his "blood on our hands" warning making front pages.

He added: "This seems to have had some effect."