Autistic Southend teenager locked up for six days

First published in News

A TEENAGER with autism had to be banged up for six days because a suitable care home could not be found.

The 17-year-old boy from Southend spent three nights in a police cell before being sent to a young offenders jail in Suffolk because Southend Council failed to find him 24-hour care.

Colchester Magistrates’ Court heard this week that the teen, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had been receiving 24-hour supervision in a care home in Braintree.

The placement is funded by Southend social services because his parents are unable to handle him.

However, his condition has got worse with police having to be called in on November 7 and 9 after he was accused of verbally abusing a member of staff and damaging bannisters.

He was arrested last Friday and was kept in a cell because no alternative care home could be found.

He appeared at Colchester Magistrates’ Court on Monday and was sent to Warren Hill young offenders prison in Suffolk after magistrates’ turned down the option of sending him back to the Braintree home or to an alternative home because he would not get round the clock care.

Social services had also failed to attend the hearing or provide a suitable bail address.

On November 14 at Colchester Magistrates’ Court the council said it had finally found a care home in Ilford which would offer full 24-hour care and he was released.

He faces two charges of criminal damage and one of common assault, but psychological reports are being carried out to see if he is capable of knowing he has possibly committed a crime.

He has been granted bail on the condition he lives at his new care home.

Speaking after the case, Sue Cook, Southend Council’s corporate director for children and learning, said: “Following his arrest the council made every possible effort to find a suitable alternative place for him to live.

"We identified another placement for him but his parents would not agree to it and we cannot place a child without the parents’ permission.

“The care home where he was arrested in was prepared to let him remain there until we could find another placement, but the court would not agree to this.

“The court also refused to let him take a placement at another suitable care home we had identified which we believed would provide a level of support that could meet his needs. Instead they remanded him into custody.

“We will always work in partnership with parents to achieve the best for their children. At times this is challenging, however this will not deter us.”

Representatives from Autism Anglia attended the hearing along with the teenager’s dad and legal team.

After the hearing Paul Vickers, the boy’s solicitor, said: “It is incredibly disappointing that it got to the point where his original placement in Braintree had broken down, and the home would only call the police as a last resort.

“He was kept in police custody over the weekend, which we do not criticise the police for, and then stuck in prison because they could not get an address for him.

"In prison there are so many youths with issues it ends up making things so much worse for people like this teenager.”

Mr Vickers added: “It took the intervention of the press and the local MP James Duddridge to do what they should have done right back at the beginning.

"It’s a real shame it has taken that much pressure to deal with it.

His father who also can’t be named, said: “I had made lots of requests to move him because the placement had been breaking down since October when new management had come in. With autism they get fixated on things and don’t like change.”

After his son was released, he added : “Today has been a real result, I am so relieved he is no longer in prison.”

A case review will take place at the magistrates’ court on January 8, with a full hearing set for February 6.

The case will either head to a trial or could be an outcome hearing depending on the psychological report findings.

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