Captured 'rat boy' is sent to secure unit

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The Independent Online
A 14-YEAR-OLD persistent criminal who has escaped from care 37 times, was sent to a secure unit last night.

After a nation-wide search, Newcastle Social Services found a place for the boy, nicknamed 'rat boy', at a secure unit in Birmingham.

He was flown there after appearing at a youth court and admitting 17 new offences, bringing his criminal record to 55 offences since he was first cautioned at the age of 10.

The boy's lawyer said he was a 'political football' and the real problem was the lack of secure accommodation.

Magistrates in Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne, agreed to a social services application for a four-week secure care order as part of a year- long supervision ruling.

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, earned the nickname 'rat boy' by living rough in a warren of tunnels in a council housing complex.

When he appeared in court yesterday he admitted four offences of burglary in which goods worth pounds 856 were stolen. He asked for 13 others, including burglary and going equipped for burglary, to be considered.

The court was told that Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, had asked to be kept informed about the case and Newcastle social services had consulted her over the handling of the boy.

The care order application was supported by his parents who were not present in court.