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LOCAL AUTHORITY/SECURE ACCOMMODATION: R (M) v Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council [2006] EWCA Civ 221

Date:14 MAR 2006

(Court of Appeal; Thorpe, Dyson and Moore-Bick LJJ; 14 March 2006) [2006] 2 FLR 379

A local authority which received a request under s 38(6) of Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 to accommodate an arrested juvenile was under a duty to provide accommodation, under Children Act 1989, s 21(2)(b), whether or not it was the authority in whose area the child was located at the time of the request. The duty was a duty to accommodate, not necessarily to provide secure accommodation, but the authority had a discretionary power to provide secure accommodation where that was requested. Therefore, all local authorities must have in place reasonable systems to enable them to respond to requests made under s 38(6) for secure accommodation. The court expressed the view that arrangements made by local authorities should be struck down as unlawful only if an authority had made no arrangements at all, so that they could never provide secure accommodation when it was requested, or where the arrangements made could not have been made by a reasonable authority mindful of the need to avoid having children detained in police cells if at all possible.