A social services department faced fierce criticism from a judge on Monday for “washing their hands” of their legal responsibility for a vulnerable girl of 15.

In a rare rebuke of officials, district judge Gwyn Jones at Llandudno court in North Wales said the teenager may be sleeping on the streets because Denbighshire County Council appeared to have “failed miserably” and the public would be “appalled”.

Judge Jones said: "This is a matter where social services have to make a decision as to what steps they are taking to protect a vulnerable child.

“The local authority have to take such steps to make sure she is fully protected. I feel very uncomfortable having to release a 15-year-old girl on bail when there’s very little support for her.”

The director of social services may have to answer for the council not carrying out their duties, he said. “Something has gone totally and utterly wrong if social services are not able to provide a basic degree of care of a vulnerable 15-year-old. I accept there may be challenges.”

Judge Jones declared: "This is a welfare issue, a matter which shouldn’t be before the criminal court but before the family court.”

Prosecutor James Neary said the girl – awaiting trial later this month for alleged knife incidents – had done everything expected of her in respect of the criminal proceedings. But there were police concerns about placements with her family.

Defence solicitor Nia Dawson said the girl had phoned friends but hadn’t an address to offer. She wasn’t safe in a seaside town.

Judge Jones granted conditional bail until her trials. But he said: "My criticism of Denbighshire social services is such that I expect a full report to explain why social services appear to have failed miserably to provide any level of support to this 15-year-old vulnerable girl who may now be obliged to live on the streets without any support from the social services team.

“It’s scathing criticism.”

However, the judge said: "It would appear they have washed their hands of her. That may be very simplistic but it seems insufficient work has been done to ensure the statutory duty the social services have to prevent harm and to ensure the welfare of a young person hasn’t been met.

“This isn’t the type of service any person whether in North Wales or elsewhere ought to receive.”

A social services manager sent to appear before the judge said inquiries had been made for foster placements and residential. The authority weren’t washing their hands of the girl, but had been unable to identify a placement for her across Britain.

Last night the council couldn’t be reached for further comment.