Secure Accommodation Orders

Posted on Sunday, 30th Aug, 2015 at 06:37:50 PM
secure accommodation by local authorities is dealt with by section 25 of the Children Act 1989 and the Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991.

A child who is being looked after by a local authority by being provided with accommodation under section 20 of the Children Act cannot be placed or kept in accommodation which has the purpose of restricting the childs liberty unless the requirements of section 25 are met.

They are:
that the child has a history of running away and is likely to run away from accommodation which isnt secure; and
if he runs away, he is likely to suffer significant harm; OR
if he isnt in secure accommodation, he is likely to injure himself or someone else.
likely means a real possibility, a possibility that cant be ignored when looking at the nature and extent of the harm its feared will come to the child.

If the local authority apply for a secure accommodation order, the court will have to be satisfied that those requirements exist. If the court agrees, it can make an order giving permission for the child to be kept in secure accommodation and specifying the maximum period for which this will be allowed. Usually a child will already be in secure accommodation when the application is made because the courts authority is not required for the first 72 hours.

This is a serious application and should only be made when there is no alternative for example, it should never be used to punish a child for running away or being a nuisance.

Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights
A secure accommodation order involves a deprivation of liberty within Article 5 of the ECHR but it will not be unlawful if it can be justified under one of the exceptions in Article 5(1), which includes the detention of a minor by lawful order for the purpose of educational supervision or his lawful detention for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority.

Regulation 14 provides:

Where a child to whom section 25 of the Act applies is kept in secure accommodation in a community home and it is intended that an application will be made to a court to keep the child in that accommodation, the local authority which are looking after the child shall if practicable inform of that intention as soon as possible

(a) his parent,
(b) any person who is not a parent of his but who has parental responsibility for him,
(c) the childs independent visitor, if one has been appointed, and
(d )any other person who that local authority consider should be informed.

Regulation 15 provides:

Each local authority looking after a child in secure accommodation in a community home shall appoint at least three persons, at least one of whom must not be employed by the local authority by or on behalf of which the child is being looked after, who shall review the keeping of the child in such accommodation for the purposes of securing his welfare within one month of the inception of the placement and then at intervals not exceeding three months where the child continues to be kept in such accommodation.

If there isnt a court order a child can only be held in secure accommodation for 72 hours every 28 days: see Children (Secure Accommodation) Regulations 1991, reg. 10. If the court makes an order, the first order can be made for an initial maximum period of 3 months and after that for further periods of up to six months (C (SA) R 1991, regs 11 and 12). Time starts running from the date of the order.

Once the order is made, it cant be discharged unless the order was made incorrectly. If the childs circumstances change and the local authority think the secure accommodation order is no longer needed the courts have decided that the way forward is to apply for a writ of habeas corpus under RSC Order 54 . If the parents and the local authority disagree about whether or not it is still needed, the parents can make an application for judicial review.

The court cannot make an order with regard to a child who is already 16 and is being accommodated under section 20(5) (accommodation in any community home in order to safeguard or promote his welfare) but it can make an order if the child isnt yet 16 even if the childs 16th birthday will happen whilst he is in secure accommodation.

A child who is under 13 years of age cannot be placed in secure accommodation in a community home, without the prior approval of the Secretary of State

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