John Szepietowski reviews Borough Council v E and Others (No 2) (Refusal of Secure Accommodation Order) [2021] EWHC 2699 (Fam)

E is a girl aged 16 at the time of this judgement. In February 2021, the court authorised the deprivation of E’s liberty in an unregulated placement and in March 2021, a secure accommodation order was made by consent after E’s behaviour deteriorated in her new placement. The behaviour involved E breaking household items and acting violently towards members of staff. In April 2021, the order was extended to August 2021.

The local authority sought a further order under s25 Children Act 1989 whilst work was undergone to provide her with a bespoke therapeutic placement. The question was whether the factors in s25 were met, and therefore whether the placement should continue.

Under s25(1)(a) a child who is being looked after by a local authority may not be kept in accommodation for the purpose of restricting liberty unless it appears that the child in question ‘has a history of absconding and is likely to abscond from any other description of accommodation’, and, if they abscond, they would be ‘likely to suffer significant harm’. Under s25(1)(b), the child may not be kept in such accommodation unless, if they were kept in any other type of accommodation, then they would be likely to injure themselves or other persons.

E was said to have made progress while placed in secure accommodation. In August 2021, the second accommodation unit emailed the local authority to inform it that it no longer believed the s25 requirements were met. However, at a review hearing held by the local authority, it was decided that the s25 factors still stood and therefore a placement was necessary. The local authority therefore made a fresh application for a second accommodation order and invented the court to make an interim order.

E wished to leave treatment, and while the children’s guardian also considered the s25 factors to no longer be met, it conceded that an interim order be made pending a hearing.

In the judgement, the judge looked at the wording of the law itself. The court noted that the Secure Accommodation Review Panel twice responded in the negative to the questions posed by s25(1)(a) and (b). The views of the panel would be considered, but it would not be determinative.

While a history of absconding was present, the risk was thought no longer to be present. E had remained in secure accommodation for seven months and did not attempt to abscond. A threat to abscond can be view in the context of anxiety and distress, rather than deliberately absenting herself.

As to whether E was likely to injure herself, while once incident was raised, this was seen as a direct result of the impression given to her that she would be moving on from the secured unit, only to have that impression taken away. The judge emphasised that while one could  look a behaviour as indicative of future behaviour, it is ‘always important to ask why’ a child or young person behaves in the way that they do.

Overall, the court concluded that it could add sufficient weight to E’s recent conduct to mean that a further secured accommodation order was not necessary. The judge was not satisfied that such an order would safeguard and promote E’s welfare as E was no longer benefitting from that care and may fall into a ‘cycle of behaviour generated by anxiety, frustration and uncertainty’ which would then be used to justify further order. Further, the requirement for E to undertake assessment for autism could not happen in the unit.


The court drew a balanced approach: while E’s behaviour and condition was not seen to be fully ‘cured’, E’s progress in self-development and improvement in behaviour seemed to receive praise from the judge. Looking past the criteria in s25 Children’s Act 1989, the judge looked at E’s welfare as a whole in reaching his judgement.

For further information on this topic or on any other legal area, please contact John Szepietowski or Kay Stewart at Audley Chaucer Solicitors on 01372 303444 or email or visit our Linkedin page

Alina Dewshi

November 2021

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