Row over accused boy's trip

A 15-YEAR-OLD boy who was sent on a sailing trip to Scotland after being accused of arson and assault was last night placed in a residential unit following an outcry over the decision.

Social services officials sent the boy on the two-week sailing trip when he was placed in their care after he appeared in court last week.

They said there was no secure accommodation available for him. He was set to return to Scotland yesterday to complete the trip when he was again put in the care of social services by magistrates at a juvenile court at Stockport, Greater Manchester.

But a spokeswoman for Stockport council said last night: 'To avoid a continuation of the publicity surrounding his care, the director of social services has decided to accept the offer of a placement in another local authority's residential unit.'

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was given a 12-month conditional discharge after being found guilty earlier of damaging two doors at a care home, handling a stolen mountain bike and twice failing to answer bail. He was remanded to appear before magistrates next Friday to answer other charges.

He and three other boys are accused of arson. In addition, he is accused of six other offences - two of theft, two of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and one each of affray and attempted robbery.

The boy spent the past week on the 39ft sloop Atlantica on the Caledonian Canal. The ship is run by Care Afloat, a private organisation which looks after disturbed children sent by local authorities.

The council spokeswoman added: 'We stand by our decision to place him with Care Afloat, who looked after him well and in every aspect met their contractual commitments both to the council and, more importantly, to the young person.

'The council has a legal obligation to act in the best interests of the children and young people in its care.'

She said that the accommodation offered by the other authority, also in the North-west, was not secure.