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‘Safe setting’ found for suicidal teenager whose case angered High Court judge

Cumbria County Council held discussions with healthcare professionals and other agencies to establish the appropriate accommodation.

A safe bed has been found for a suicidal teenager whose case prompted a High Court judge to issue a scathing assessment of care provision.

Mike Prentice, medical director for NHS North, said: “Following extensive assessments, the NHS has identified a bed for this young woman in a safe and appropriate care setting which will best meet her needs. The bed will be available ahead of the release date.”

Sir James Munby, the most senior family court judge in England and Wales, had revealed there were no places available in an “appropriate clinical setting” when the girl is released from a secure unit later this month.

Beds were found after Sir James said he felt “shame and embarrassment” that he “can do no more” for the girl, known as X, in a judgment delivered in private in the High Court family division sitting in Manchester.

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The judgment was delivered at the High Court family division (Nick Ansell/PA)

Beds have since identified in three appropriate care settings as Cumbria County Council held discussions between healthcare professionals and other agencies involved in X’s care.

The judgment concerns a girl who has “on a large number of occasions” in a secure unit made “determined attempts to commit suicide”.

Staff at the unit, referred to as ZX, have said sending her back to her home town would be a “suicide mission to a catastrophic level”.

The teenager must leave the unit no later than 3pm on August 14.

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In his ruling, Sir James said the case “should make us all feel ashamed”.

He said: “For my own part, acutely conscious of my powerlessness, of my inability to do more for X, I feel shame and embarrassment; shame, as a human being, as a citizen and as an agent of the state, embarrassment as president of the Family Division, and, as such, head of Family Justice, that I can do no more for X.

“If, when in 11 days’ time she is released from ZX, we, the system, society, the state, are unable to provide X with the supportive and safe placement she so desperately needs, and if, in consequence, she is enabled to make another attempt on her life, then I can only say, with bleak emphasis: we will have blood on our hands.”

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Luciana Berger branded the case a "life and death situation" (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Labour MP Luciana Berger, who previously served as shadow minister for mental health, branded the case a “life and death situation” and called on Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to take immediate action.

Sir James ordered that copies of the judgment be sent to the Home Secretary, Health Secretary, Education Secretary and Justice Secretary, as well as the chief executive of NHS England.

A further court hearing is due to take place on Monday.

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