Social services leaders campaign for law change after sentence on violent teenager revoked

    Social work chiefs are to lobby the home office to close a legal
    loophole preventing a court from imposing a detention and training
    order on a teenage girl who head-butted and punched two staff at a
    secure children’s home.

    The 15-year-old, known as N, who is serving a four-year-sentence
    for false imprisonment and assault, was originally sentenced to an
    extra eight months for causing affray at Stamford House, West
    London.

    But last week district judge Justin Philips had to overturn his
    own ruling after realising that a previous court of appeal case
    meant that an extra detention and training order could not be
    imposed.

    Judge Philips said he did so under protest: ‘This court
    views with abhorrence the message which will circulate to detainees
    and their detainers.’

    The Association of Directors of Social Services is appealing to
    the Youth Justice Board, while Hammersmith and Fulham Council is to
    lobby the home office to close the loophole.

    Robert Lake, ADSS spokesperson on secure units, said: ‘It
    sounds like the court has been disempowered from doing anything
    about assaults on staff. I would be very worried for staff in my
    own secure unit if there is no effective sanction by the court.
    What the judge is saying is that it gives license to these young
    people to do what they like.

    ‘Our work with young offenders on getting them to
    understand the consequences of their behavior is essential –
    it’s part of their treatment programme. Staff within the
    secure estate are amazing people and the law should be there to
    protect them.’

    Geoff Alltimes, social services director at Hammersmith and
    Fulham Council, said: ‘Staff at Stamford House work with some
    of the country’s most challenging young people. Many come
    from violent backgrounds, but we feel strongly that their previous
    criminal behavior should not continue unchecked whilst in our
    care.

    ‘We understand, but do not accept the court’s
    decision to drop the original sentence, and will be lobbying the
    government to ensure that the loophole is closed for
    good.’

    Angus MacKay, project director of London Secure Services which
    runs Stamford House, warned that the ruling made it unlikely that
    they would accept further placements of young people with a history
    of assaulting staff.

    ‘Previously we would have taken them,’ he said.
    ‘Now people will be reluctant to take them on when they know
    there’s not that support or sanction available.

    ‘It may mean additional funding is needed to work with
    them, in terms of psychological and psychiatric support.’

    Mr McKay said assaults on staff at the unit were lower than in
    young offenders institutions. ‘Our work is about engagement
    with young people and building a positive relationship.’

    The court heard that N head-butted staff member Declan Flanagan
    as she was being escorted with five other girls back from an
    exercise yard in January.

    When Mr Flanagan’s colleague, Michael Reilly tried to
    restrain another girl, N punched him in the face. She has since
    been transferred from Stamford House.

    N was sent to Stamford House for the kidnap and torture of a
    13-year-old girl in Scarborough.

    The victim was beaten and doused with hot coffee, then had her
    hair hacked off with scissors and removed with depilatory cream, in
    a revenge attack for the girl giving evidence in another court
    case.

     

     

     

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