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Home Detention Curfew - MP attacks plans for covert hostels in Thanet  (March 9th 2009)

North Thanetís MP, Roger Gale, has this (Monday 9th March) morning hit out at Home Office plans to establish one or more hostels for criminals released on Home Detention Curfew in Thanet.  The MPs comments arise following information that has come to light over the weekend

In that answer Home Office Minister David Hanson indicates that the ClearSprings company, acting on behalf of the Home Office, is establishing hostels without prior consultation with Members of Parliament.

"I now understand that Landlords and estate agents in Margate have been approached for "affordable" accommodation in the area" says the MP. " In his reply the Minister says that "Honourable Members may write to the contractor at any time" although I am told at the same time that "MPs are not part of the consultation process".

I do not see how an MP can, as the Minister suggests, "write to the contractor" if they are not to be informed that a search for premises is taking place!

I am concerned by the assertion that "subject to the requirements of the courts and prisons we do sometimes have to accommodate from outside the area".   While I accept that released prisoners require accommodation and may wish to return to "home" (in this case possibly Thanet) it seems to me that the caveat leaves the way open for the dumping of prisoners from other areas on Margate not because it is necessary but because it may be cheap and convenient.

I am concerned that there appears to be - bearing in mind that we are talking about convicted criminals who have not completed their sentences - no information available about the categories of prisoner that may be accommodated in these hostels. (Sex Offenders?  Violent Criminals? Or low-level offenders?)

I am concerned that this scheme of Home Detention Curfew is being used to decant prisoners from over-full prisons when under circumstances of adequate provision of custodial accommodation they would still be in prison.  In other words, is this a response to government failure to provide adequate prison space?

I note that "planning permission is not required" because the units are planned to accommodate no more than three people.  This appears to be a back-door way of securing change of use. I also question whether or not it would be wise to accommodate three offenders knowingly under one roof. How will this help with re-settlement?

Turning to the specific, Thanet has the highest levels of social deprivation in the South East, already suffers from crimes of violence including domestic abuse, and drug taking and anti-social behaviour.  At a time when the police, the local authorities (KCC and TDC) and Social Services and the Health Authorities are all seeking to address these issues it cannot be appropriate to add, at all, to that burden.

I accept entirely that ex-offenders have a need for housing, a right to return home and a demand for rehabilitation - and I have been actively involved in that process myself.  I do not believe, however, that Thanet can accept responsibility (given the provision that the Island  is already making for immigrants and cared-for children from out of area) for yet another tranche of people with social problems from outside the area.

This whole issue must be re-addressed by Ministers before any further decisions are taken and most certainly before any property is secured for this purpose either in Margate or elsewhere in Thanet." 

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