An “ongoing and acute” lack of suitable care places for society’s most vulnerable children has left a High Court judge with no choice but to authorise a suicidal Lancashire teenager’s placement in “sub-optimal” emergency accommodation.

Mr Justice MacDonald said the 16-year-old, a “highly troubled and vulnerable young woman with multifaceted emotional and behavioural difficulties”, is at a high risk of self-harm or suicide.

However, the judge said that almost six months after the case was first issued, and following 11 hearings in the Family Division of the High Court, there is still no suitable care placement available for her.

He said that, despite previous court rulings in the case being sent to the relevant Government ministers – including Education Secretary Gavin Williamson – and at least £26,000 of public money being spent, she remains in a “temporary emergency placement” which was originally designed to last for 28 days.

The judge first made his concerns about the teenager, identified only as G, public in a ruling in October when he made a “deprivation of liberty order” to allow the local authority with responsibility for her care to house her in an unregulated placement.

Giving his fourth ruling on the case, following another application for a deprivation of liberty order by Lancashire County Council, Mr Justice MacDonald said: “I once again and wearily must authorise the continued deprivation of G in an unregulated placement that is not fully equipped to meet her complex needs by reason of the fact that I have no other option but to do so.

“I make clear that I consider that I can say that the placement is in G’s best interests only because it is the sole option available to the court to prevent G causing herself serious and possibly fatal harm.

“Even then, it is clear that the placement is increasingly struggling to achieve even that limited goal.

“As has been the case each time this matter has come before me in the past number of months, I make the decision I do because I am left with no choice.”

The judge said that, following the breakdown of her long-term foster placement, the teenager had a number of admissions to hospital due to self-harming and “suicidal ideation”.

By August last year G had written nine letters expressing her desire to kill herself and has made attempts to take her own life.

In recent months she has swallowed a number of metal objects, including screws, coins and batteries, and has lost weight as a result of regularly not eating enough food.

The judge said the council’s lawyers told the court the teenager’s current placement is “even more precarious” than previously, with “difficulties emerging in how staff have related to G within the context of the highly stressed environment created by G’s acute level of need”.

Despite the local authority having continued its “diligent search” for a regulated placement, there are none available in England and Wales, and she cannot begin therapeutic treatment for her issues until she is in a settled, long-term placement.

Instead, she will have to remain in her current accommodation where she is supervised by three staff at all times, may be restrained if she attempts to leave, is not allowed a mobile phone and has to be checked on every 10 minutes through the night.

The judge said: “In this case, I fear it is increasingly easy to chart the likely course for G over the next number of weeks and months having regard to the evidence that is before the court if a regulated placement capable of meeting fully G’s needs is not found.

“The professionals are increasingly concerned with respect to G’s regular attempts to harm herself and for the continued viability of what is already an unsuitable placement for G.

“G continues to swallow dangerous objects and to tie ligatures around her neck.

“Within this context, whilst my judgments to date are comprised of the mournful accounts of the self-harming behaviour by which G expresses her acute and enduring emotional pain, I am increasingly worried that, absent a suitable placement being found, it will be the sad responsibility of this court to deliver a judgment that records with respect to G a greater tragedy still.”

He said that, as a judge, he must “assiduously avoid” involving himself in matters that are for Parliament.

Mr Justice MacDonald added: “I have, however, taken the judicial oath. In doing so I promised to do right by all manner of people according to the laws and usages of this realm.

“It is very hard, if not impossible, to do right by G, to keep her safe and to work to relieve her enduring and acute emotional pain, when the tools required to achieve that end are simply unavailable to this court.

“As I have commented in my previous judgments, this places the court in the invidious position of being required by the law of this realm to make decisions that hold G’s best interests as the court’s paramount consideration but being effectively disabled from doing so by an ongoing and acute lack of appropriate welfare provision for a constituency of the country’s most needy, most vulnerable children.”

The judge again directed his ruling should be sent to Mr Williamson, children’s minister Vicky Ford and other officials including the children’s commissioner for England and Ofsted.

He added: “The court has now received replies from Vicky Ford MP and from Ofsted in response to previous judgments sent to them.

“Whilst the court is, of course, grateful for those considered responses to the issues raised in the previous judgments in this case, those responses have not resulted in any appreciable improvement in G’s situation.”

The lack of secure accommodation has been highlighted by a number of family judges in recent years, including the current president of the Family Division, Sir Andrew McFarlane, and his predecessor Sir James Munby.

Giving a ruling in January in a case involving a troubled teenager who posed a danger to himself and others, Mrs Justice Knowles invited lawyers representing Mr Williamson to attend the next hearing to assist the court.

In April last year, Mr Justice Cobb said he intended to pass on his ruling to Mr Williamson to “raise awareness” of the plight of a teenager who was placed in a holiday cottage because no suitable placement was available.

Mrs Justice Judd raised similar concerns in July last year when approving a plan for a teenager with behavioural difficulties to be temporarily locked in a council house because there was no appropriate secure accommodation.

A Supreme Court case relating to unregistered secure accommodation – which the children’s commissioner for England has intervened in – is awaiting a ruling.