Brain injured teen left in police cells for three nights

7:02 pm on 19 June 2017

The Ministry for Vulnerable Children left a teenager with a pre-existing brain injury in police cells for three nights because they could not find him a suitable bed.

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Photo: 123RF

The case was called at the Waitakere Youth Court today after Judge Lisa Tremewan refused to remand the 16-year-old back into the police cells after he had two seizures over the weekend.

The teenager's father told RNZ that his son has a pre-existing brain condition after being hit by a car aged two.

He said his son has been expelled from schools for violence and needs hospital care.

The teenager was arrested on Friday after allegedly setting fire to a chair and threatening a security guard.

Ministry for Vulnerable Children Oranga Tamariki, formerly known as Child Youth and Family, could not find him a suitable bed and he had to be remanded in police cells where he spent three nights.

During that time he had two seizures and both times had to be transported by ambulance to hospital.

Senior Sergeant Terry Bourke told the court that a constable had been taken off duties to watch the teenager 24 hours a day.

The sergeant told the court the police did not have the facilities to care for the young man, but Oranga Tamariki would not take him and nor would mental health authorities.

He said the teen should not have spent time in police cells - let alone a whole weekend.

A representative of Oranga Tamariki told the court that social workers spent hours trying to find suitable accommodation over the weekend but nothing could be found. She said the teen was very hard to place because of his needs.

Judge Tremewan said that may be the case but it wasn't an unusual situation. The judge said she knew of a case of a 14-year-old girl who spent three nights in police cells in past two months.

RNZ reported last week that another 16-year-old spent three nights in police cells before the ministry could find him a bed.

Judge Tremewan said she did not question the hard working ethic of social workers but when the resources did not match needs there would always be limitations.

She said policy needed to be closely considered.

The teen's lawyer, Frank Godinet, said his client had fallen between the cracks of the ministry and mental health services.

The ministry managed to find him a bed in a secure mental health unit in Porirua this afternoon called Nga Taiohi.

The matter will be called again before the end of the month.

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