Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 12 July 2014

Youth on run after being sprung from detention centre by 14-year-old pal

A teenager of 16 is on the run after his 14-year-old friend broke him out of one of Northern Ireland's most secure youth facilities.

The younger boy had previously stayed at Lakewood Regional Secure Care Centre near Bangor.

He broke into the facility and used master keys to unlock the rooms of three of his friends.

One chose not to leave. Of the other two, one was detained by staff as he tried to escape while a 16-year-old escaped.

Police said the youth poses no threat to the public but have appealed for him to get in touch to ensure his own safety.

He was being detained at the centre after running away from his home on multiple occasions.

It is understood four members of staff were on duty, including one said to be aged in their 70s.

The 14-year-old has been charged with burglary by police and will appear in court next month. He is currently on bail.

The unit is run by the South Eastern Health Trust. A spokeswoman said it was assisting police with their investigation.

"The South Eastern HSC Trust can confirm there was a forced break-in by a former resident at Lakewood Regional Care Centre on 15 July 2013 which is being investigated by the PSNI," she said.

"As a consequence of this forced entry, three young people absconded from the unit and two have subsequently been returned to the unit. The trust is working with the PSNI in respect of locating the third young person."

She added the damage had been repaired and the site secured.

A police spokeswoman said: "A 14-year-old male has been charged with burglary and will appear in Ards Juvenile court on August 8.

"As is normal procedure the charges will be reviewed by the Public Prosecution Service."

The keys were found at the scene after Monday's incident.

Lakewood provides care to young people with a range of personal difficulties as well as being used as a detention centre.

Last year it hit the headlines when staff stages several weeks of strikes over working hours.

The Regulation and Quality Inspection Authority will carry out a routine inspection next week.

FACTFILE

Lakewood opened in 2007 at a cost of £5m. The secure care centre (right) houses 16 11-to-18-year-old children on both a short and long-term basis. When it opened it was widely heralded due to its modern design and facilities which include a communal courtyard. It has a games room, sports hall, basketball court and dance studio. The centre is made up of four units which also includes Ashgrove care home. Around 30 vulnerable young people live in the facilities.

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