Christopher Booker’s Sunday column this week features a teenage boy who is apparently detained in a hospital against the wishes of his family and himself. See A gifted child in a psychiatric unit is madness (premium content, scroll down once logged in).

The case he says “…centres on a boy, now nearly 16, who has suffered since birth from a series of complex physical disabilities. But mentally, as if in compensation, he is exceptionally bright.”

Booker says that :

 …last week…he was forcibly taken to a secure “psychiatric unit”, specialising in “children with mental health problems”, mainly much younger girls suffering from anorexia.

Far from having any “mental problems”, the boy is the very opposite, and highly articulate. But his iPad and iPhone, I gather, have been confiscated, and he has been told he is now only allowed books suitable for the youngest children. He cannot be visited by his friends, and his mother has been told that she may never see him again.

Booker says that there was a scrambled move because the unit’s rules don’t allow it to admit any children after their 16th birthday so it had to be done before his birthday fell – he says the move is under the auspices of The Children Act, but doesn’t explain how.

And that is pretty much all we know.

We confess we are a bit baffled by this at present so there isn’t much we can usefully say. It sounds very concerning if accurate. But we are struggling to work out what the legal context to this is. We have been told by third parties that there is some kind of court order in place (unverified), but that doesn’t really help us understand what court, what law or what proper basis there is for the actions described. It could be under the Children Act, the inherent jurisdiction of the High Court, or the Mental Health Act (it is possible that, even though he is very bright, the boy has mental health difficulties that the family don’t recognise exist). But frankly at the moment we are just speculating, which is not very much help to anyone. There may be a very good explanation for all this, or it may represent something going very wrong – but at the moment we can’t provide any clarity as to which it is.

If and when we have more (publishable) information, or a better grasp on the legal context so that we can explain the case usefully, and so we can identify whether or not the case really is as troubling as it appears it might be, we will post an update or fresh blog post.

UPDATE : We have now published a substantial update in a separate blog post here. Things are not at all as they seemed.