Judge slams Brent Council after vulnerable runaway girl is left in police custody for SEVEN hours

Cllr Ruth Moher

Cllr Ruth Moher - Credit: Archant

Brent Council has been criticised by a High Court judge for leaving runaway children in police custody for too long.

Mr Justice Newton said it was “nothing short of disgraceful” that the council are failing to make proper arrangements to collect vulnerable children from police stations.

The council slammed after one young girl in the care of Brent council was left for seven hours in custody as officers tried to contact social service staff.

The judge raised concerns in a written ruling on that case published following a private hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London.

He said he had made an order for the girl, who was and living with a foster carer, to be found and picked up by police after she went missing late last year.

He said police had found her at 7.30 pm one evening and she been left waiting at a police station until 3am until council staff arrived to collect her.

The judge outlined the attempts police had made to contact duty social services staff including calling a national council call line based in Liverpool who said they had no contact numbers for Brent.

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The hearing was told police had reached a point of “desperation”, six officers had “needlessly” been kept on overtime at “considerable expense” and the difficulties were “far from unique”.

Judge Newton said similar problems had arisen recently in a case heard in the High Court.

He said: “The police endeavoured to contact the emergency duty team. The only information that was available to them were the details of the emergency duty team social worker, which, of course, the police already had, and who appeared to be quite unable to assist.

“The response was slow, she had received no arrangement details (because none existed), and seemed unable to put any in place. They refused to give details of anybody else in authority.”

He added: “The local borough of Brent was told at 7.58pm that the order had been executed. The duty team responded half an hour later. When they did respond, it was to say that no adequate arrangements were in place, either for placement or transport.”

The judge added it was “totally unacceptable” for children to remain in custody while “some sort of plan” was “cobbled together” by social services staff.

He said: “If this situation ever arises again each individual can expect to be publicly named and shamed,” said the judge.

“It is incumbent on authorities to ensure that robust processes are in place.”

Cllr John Warren, of the Brondesbury Park Conservatives said: “We have emergency arrangements that don’t work in an emergency.”

Cllr Ruth Moher, cabinet member for children and young people’s services, said: “We are sorry that our actions subsequently fell short of expectations and we have learnt from the outcomes.

“In this instance local services worked together and the girl was located quickly and removed from any potential harm.”