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Aldridge Bail Hostel (Approved Premises)
Walsall, WS9, West Midlands UK.
85 Stonnall Road, Aldridge, Walsall, West Midlands, WS9 8JZ.
Still awaiting closure since a High Court ruling in 1996. The Stonnall bail hostel in Aldridge is currently at full capacity with 12 males and many of the sex offenders there have lived at the location for a considerable time.
June 2009 - A convicted paedophile suspected of grooming his own young daughter from behind prison walls was allowed to live less than two miles away from the child in Aldridge bail hostel. see The man, who has not been named, was denied contact with the child while in prison, but was then moved to Aldridge’s Stonnall Road Approved Premises after serving his jail sentence. The potential danger to the child emerged in March after the man met Aldridge-Brownhills MP Richard Shepherd to ask for his help in regaining access to the child. “I said that I could not and the visit greatly disturbed me,” said Mr Shepherd, who took the issue to Crispin Blunt MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Ministry of Justice, in a Westminster debate this week. The man has since been moved after Mr Shepherd and Walsall Council’s executive director of children’s services, Pauline Pilkington, wrote to probation chiefs with concerns about the situation. Speaking at the debate, Mr Shepherd said: “The man has been moved from the Stonnall Road bail hostel but there is no agreement he could not be returned there.” Aldridge residents have been fighting to close the hostel since the mid 1990s. It is only two minutes by foot from a housing estate with more than 500 homes and is just a five-minute walk from two local primary schools. Mr Blunt agreed to look at the case, but said it was “obviously of some satisfaction that necessary action was taken”.
On November the 17th 2008 it was reported that the Government has ruled out plans to close Aldridge bail hostel. The decision to keep the Stonnall Road hostel has left hundreds of Aldridge residents feeling shocked that a high court ruling for closure and the passage of almost 12 years has made no progress. The Home Office hold the position that there is no reason for the hostel to close. “West Midlands Probation Area have said for more than 10 years that they would be prepared to move from Stonnall Road, subject to a suitable and larger alternative site being found – although I must stress that they have never said that they regard the Stonnall Road location as inherently unsafe or unsuitable. “To do so without an alternative would reduce the amount of supervised accommodation in the area and so would reduce public protection.” Aldridge ward councillor Mike Flower said: “It’s in the wrong location". “In the current economic climate, things aren’t being built and there’s lots of land available." “The fact behind this whole letter is the Government doesn’t want to do anything. They’re quite comfortable where they are and don’t want to be bothered with it.” Campaigner Lee Stone, aged 35, from Clifton Avenue, Aldridge, said the announcement was disappointing but he was determined the fight would continue anyway.
On Saturday 13th September 2008 a PROTEST MEETING WAS HELD OUTSIDE ALDRIDGE BAIL HOSTEL Organised by local residents concerned about 2 recent incidents involving an assault in Aldridge and a further incident in Walsall connected to this bail hostel. Local residents wish to press for the closure of Aldridge Bail hostel in accordance with the high court decision in 1996 which concluded that it should be closed.
Sign the petition to close Aldridge Bail Hostel following an assult of a young girl in Aldridge.
On Thursday September 4th 2008 a spokesperson for West Midlands Probation Service confirmed a resident from the Aldridge bail hostel was arrested by police on 28 August and was held overnight in custody on suspicion of sexual assault. Police said the person was later released on bail pending further inquiries. A statement issued by the probation service said: "He was then recalled to prison the following morning and the matter is now subject to a police investigation. "Stonnall Approved Premises accommodates offenders who have served the custodial part of their sentence and have been released on licence from prison after a full risk assessment. We are unable to confirm the details of individual cases." The statement added that keeping communities safe was one of the probation service's "main aims". It said: "Approved premises are safer for the public than the alternative which is to disperse offenders in the community, making supervision less effective, more costly and more dangerous for the public. "There are no plans to close the hostel."
Further calls in September 2008 by local residents and councillors have been made for the closure and relocation of Aldridge Bail hostel after a incident involving a young girl from Aldridge and a resident of the Bail Hostel which has raised concerns about the safety of local residents and the suitability of a bail hostel in the heart of a residential area with many young children who attend local schools. Local councillors including Mike Flower, are pressing to have the bail hostel closed, futher details are found on Mike Flowers website
September 2008, A CONVICTED rapist who burgled the home of a young mother in Walsall while she was inside has been sent to a young offenders' institution for two years. James Warren, 20, burst into the flat of the woman who was inside with her 14-month-old daughter, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told. Warren, who was living in Aldridge bail hostel at the time, admitted burglarly. He was in the hostel after being released from custody on licence following his conviction for rape in November 2005.
September 2007, Councillor Mike Flower and the other five councillors for Aldridge, along with MP Richard Shepherd, are pressing for Stonnall Road Bail Hostel to be put back on the agenda. They met with the Head of the West Midlands Probation Service who agreed that the Bail Hostel needs to be moved. They are going to actively work with the Council on finding an alternative site. Then funding will have to be found from central Government, and then planning permission granted.
February 2007, a murderer serving life, who stabbed his own brother 124 times and years later knifed a pensioner some 50 times, has been refused release from prison and his request to move into Aldridge bail hostel.
Wesley Kenneth Churchman wants to move to the Stonnall Road bail hostel in Aldridge, however, the West Midlands Probation Board stated he must stay in an open prison because of the risk he poses to the public. It is considered the killer’s chances of re-offending are high.
His application to be released on temporary licence in December 2006 and February 2007 were both refused, and at London’s High Court on 13th June 2007 his barrister Flo Krause failed in a bid to overturn the probation board’s decision.
Mr Churchman, now 73 years old was jailed in 1958, at the age of 24, for the murder of his brother, then released six years later in 1964.
In 1973 Churchman admitted the manslaughter of a 78-year-old man on the grounds of diminished responsibility, after stabbing him 50 times, stating “for a long time I have had an urge inside me to kill someone.”
He has remained behind bars for 30 years, and in 2005 was transferred to HMP Kirkham, open prison in Preston, where he has been allowed out regularly on unsupervised day trips and also works five days a week as a gardener and maintenance man at a local church.
Mr Justice Bennett said the decision to keep Mr Churchman in prison was “lawful and rational” and it was up to the probation board to decide whether he is suitable for release on temporary licence and that the probation board has a duty to assess whether Churchman poses a risk to the public, and it does not automatically follow that because the parole board and Home Secretary backed the decision to send him to an open prison he should be granted a move to Aldridge Hostel.
December 2005 Richard Shepherd asked questions about the 1996 High Court ruling.
Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills, Conservative) asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps (a) the West Midlands probation service and (b) the National Offender Management Service have taken to identify an alternative site for the Bail Hostel located in Stonnall road, Aldridge, since the High Court ruling in 1996.
Fiona Mactaggart (Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Home Office; Slough, Labour)
The information is as follows.
(a) NPS West Midlands do wish to provide a larger approved premises in the Walsall area. However, this would rely on both the local authority agreeing a suitable location and adequate funding being available.
(b) The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) has not identified an alternative site for this specific approved premises and currently there are no funds allocated for its replacement. There is a NOMS instigated review and scoping exercise currently being undertaken to ascertain the level of development required across the approved premises estate. Once complete this information will be used to inform a national strategy for approved premises development including, if appropriate, Stonnall road.
Commons Sitting 10 November 1999 regarding violent rapist to be sent to Aldridge bail hostel
These are the notes of a debate in Parliament.
Mr. Richard Shepherd (Aldridge-Brownhills) In March (1999) this year, I was notified by the Home Office on the Friday morning before the Thursday in question that a violent rapist was to be sent to a bail hostel in my constituency. The Home Office expressed regret at the lateness of the notification, but the Minister, Lord Williams of Mostyn—to his credit—arranged to see me at short notice. That meeting took place on the day before the violent rapist was due to come to the Stonnall road bail hostel. I quite understand that he was not able to see me before that, because he had urgent duties in Parliament. He saw me at the earliest possible time.
I was able to make representations about this case. I first raised the issue of the unsuitability of the site as evidenced in the planning inspector's inquiry into an appeal by west midlands probation committee in which the inspector noted that the Home Office guidance note on the location of bail hostels was not met at Stonnall road. I also reminded the Minister of the fear element that was weighed in that judgment and that was subsequently addressed in an appeal by the probation service first to the High Court and then to the Court of Appeal. Both courts found that the inspector had considered those matters appropriately in the context of his responsibilities.
The second point that I raised was about the process of evaluation of placements whereby, in the case of the violent rapist, even the officer then in charge of Aldridge police station did not know that a released category A violent rapist was to be moved into his bailiwick.
My third point was that the category A prisoner in question would, because of his size and colour, not pass without comment in the very homogeneous community of Druids Heath and that his secret introduction into the bail hostel would exacerbate and reinforce the local fears already raised by the management of the bail hostel and by the incidents perceived by residents. Officers of the probation service have attended public meetings and have heard the alarm of local residents, of local councillors and of myself.
Fourthly, I have made representations and expressed concerns about a system of management that could set aside the observations and conclusions of a planning inspector that have significant implications for the original purpose of the building as a bail hostel. Although the planning inspector's approach was upheld in the High Court and Court of Appeal, it was decided to accommodate a man described by one of the senior representatives of the agencies involved in placement as "my worst nightmare". I advised Lord Williams, as I had done the chief probation officer for the west midlands, that I would feel in conscience bound that it was my duty to notify local residents that there may be a danger. I also argued that the appropriate way forward was for the authorities to apply what is known in the United States as Megan's law and to notify local residents of the possibility of an increased risk to the community.
In the event, and to forestall disclosure, the west midlands probation service did not place the released violent rapist in Stonnall road. The Home Secretary and his office were aware of my concern.
Two weeks ago, at 9.49 am on Thursday 28 October, I received a fax from the office of the Minister of State advising me of the arrival that day of a convicted 1097 paedophile. This man has spent 39 of the last 43 years behind bars. He was last sentenced in January 1998 to three years in prison for the attempted abduction of a 13-year-old boy. When he was released earlier this year, he broke the conditions of his bail within 24 hours and was subsequently returned to prison to serve a further six months of his sentence. The authorities had, therefore, more than six months to prepare for his release back into the community. Apparently, as in the earlier case I described, they did not think it appropriate to give much notice to the Minister to enable him to notify the local Member of Parliament or to make such inquiries as he may have thought necessary to satisfy himself that the arrangements were suitable.
The Minister has been placed in a difficult position. His office received details of the release very late—on the day before. His private office then faxed me the details—as I said, at 9.49 am on the morning of the release—and the fax was signed by a member of his office and dated the day before. I immediately telephoned the Minister and, when he was notified of my urgent call, he responded as soon as possible, about an hour later, while on a ministerial visit to Feltham young offenders institution.
In the meantime, I telephoned the Home Secretary's private office and advised them that the circumstances of the release that day left me no alternative but to notify local residents of the authorities' decision to place in the Stonnall road hostel a potentially dangerous man. When I spoke to the Minister, I advised him that the timing and the intent of the authorities left me with no alternative but to release to the public his confidential letter.
I then spoke with our most senior local police officer and with the assistant chief probation officer and advised them that I was releasing the Minister's letter. They already knew that I would do that, because of the earlier case of the violent rapist, but the Minister may not have known, because he had had no opportunity to review my previous representations and my stated intent of advising my constituents if the possibility of a danger to them arose. I released the letter, and the authorities directed the paedophile away from Stonnall road bail hostel.
The Home Office issued a press released head "Statement from the Home Office on Dangerous Offenders", thus confirming that the man in question was dangerous. It stated: It is not Home Office policy to discuss the detailed arrangements for the release of dangerous offenders. We inform MPs of these announcements where they involve a placement in their constituencies so that they are reassured about the importance attached to public protection, and to assist in ensuring that an understandably apprehensive public are properly informed. We rely on MPs to exercise proper judgement in these matters. Two paragraphs later, it adds: The police, probation service and other agencies are experienced and effective in managing the risk posed by the release of dangerous offenders and deal with cases on a routine basis. One of the most significant problems in managing this risk can be public attention. It is understandable that the public are concerned about the presence of dangerous offenders in their communities. But if those offenders are being managed and monitored by the relevant professional agencies the risk they pose is minimised. The risk to the public is greatly increased if public attention forces offenders 'underground' and out of contact with the public protection agencies. 1098 As the press release contains the most recent formal expression of Home Office policy on notifying Members of Parliament, I should like to ask what it means. When it states: We inform MPs of these announcements where they involve a placement in their constituencies", the obvious question is, what announcements? It continues: so they are reassured about the importance attached to public protection". In what way can a same-day fax reassure me, or anyone else for that matter, of the importance attached to public protection? The actions of the authorities in the case that I have described provide evidence as to why I am not reassured about the importance attached to public protection. The fact that I am not able to make representations and that a 24-hour curfew may be in place even though a senior police officer is unaware of it undermines confidence in what I am increasingly coming to believe is merely a bureaucratic exercise.
The press release goes on to say that the purpose of the announcements is to assist in ensuring that an understandably apprehensive public are properly informed. In what way? The authorities, despite having the power to inform the public in these cases, resolutely, and often indignantly, refuse to do so. Who, then, informs the "understandably apprehensive public"? The police will not; the probation service will not, and Ministers will not. The release continues: We rely on MPs to exercise proper judgement in these matters. If that judgment, as in my case, leads an MP to the conclusion that what I shall call "Megan's law" should apply, and he or she should advise those affected, whom they are elected to represent, the authorities express anger and even outrage to the media. Having denied the Minister the opportunity of notifying the MP in good time, they then round on the MP for notifying his constituents of the possibility of danger or advising them to be more cautious on behalf of themselves and their children.
The notification of elected representatives must mean more than trying to envelope the local MP in a cloak of complicity should anything go wrong. It is intolerable that I should know of such a situation and therefore be able quietly to make arrangements further to ensure my safety or that of those whom I love, while denying my friends and neighbours and those who elected me the same opportunity. Should anything go wrong with what experience has reluctantly led me to conclude is now a rather mechanistic and bureaucratic framework, and a child were abducted or a woman raped, when such a crime might have been avoided if children were accompanied and women warned, would I not be party to a great wrong?
For my part, I believe that it is the duty of the authorities to notify all those affected—those who are at risk if something should go wrong—and not just the MP. That is not only a discretion for Ministers and the authorities; it is a duty, and I would argue that, in this country, it is the right of those who might be affected to be notified. We are warned about burglars, but not about something that might be far more dangerous.
Coming into the Chamber, I received a letter signed by the Home Secretary, which I shall quote because it is 1099 germane and should be a warning to everyone who represents constituents. The letter said: I am writing to express my disappointment and frustration that you have failed to respect the confidence placed in you by Paul Boateng in his letter to you of 28 October regarding the release of a dangerous offender. You have on many occasions expressed the concern residents feel about the presence of known dangerous offenders and sex offenders in their communities. That is understandable. Protection of the public is a primary function of the police, prison and probation services. That is why, as you know, great care is undertaken through multi-agency public protection planning by prison, police and probation services to put in place procedures to supervise such offenders on release from prison. The aim is to ensure that the public are properlý protected. This includes, in appropriate cases, arranging 24 hour curfews and surveillance in a suitable probation hostel. If those plans are jeopardised the services may have to resort to alternatives which offer less protection. In extreme cases offenders have to be released without supervision into the community, which puts the public more at risk. The final paragraph of the letter states: I believe we acted responsibly in giving you full information in confidence and that you did not act responsibly in betraying that confidence. Fortunately in this case alternatives were found and the public were not put at risk. But they might have been. I am afraid that I can no longer guarantee that you will be notified of any future cases. That is the Home Secretary's response. I do not blame him for that. It was probably manufactured in the probation unit within the Home Office. I think that there is a symbiotic relationship between captured agencies that now no longer view these matters objectively. How dare the Home Secretary, who clearly has not read his own press release, which talks in some peculiar way about the release of information, say that when there is a threat in the community, he will now deny that information to the elected representatives of that community? That creates a closed, secretive world of bureaucratic administration.
I may sound indignant about the Home Secretary's response, which does not address the responsibilities of elected Ministers to notify and keep informed Members of Parliament if there is a danger within their constituency. The burden of the argument is, as I have made clear, that no one is appropriately notified. In the case of the rapist earlier this year, neither the Minister nor the senior police officer within the division affected by the 24-hour curfew was notified. Much, much worse, in that case, is that not even the inspector in charge of the local police station in Aldridge was aware that a violent rapist who had been released from prison was about to descend on his area.
I am told that this bureaucratic melange is, in the Home Secretary's view, secure and wise. I want women to have the opportunity to close windows that might give access to a rapist, or parents of the young children at the two schools in the vicinity of the establishment to be advised that they may want to walk 11, 12 or 13-year-olds to school. Why is that burden placed on me? It is the duty of the authorities to notify people of such dangers.
The authorities cannot say that my actions came as a surprise. The Home Secretary himself knew that I intended to take action where there was a possible danger to my constituents. Lord Williams of Mostyn knew that. The west midlands probation service knew that. The police authorities, including a representative from 1100 Birmingham with responsibility for the matter, knew that. Notwithstanding all that knowledge, the authorities placed the Minister in the position of having to fax me a letter on the morning of the prisoner's release, and they are trying to tell me that the arrangements are secure, suitable and reliable. My experience has led me to believe that all is not well in the management of the probation service in the west midlands.
The Minister will, by this time, know full well the planning history of the case. He will know that a former deputy chief probation officer misled the local councillors about whether Walsall magistrates court and Aldridge magistrates court had specifically stated their agreement that the location was appropriate for a bail hostel. He will also know of the corrective letter from the Walsall magistrates clerk saying that, in the minutes, that agreement had not been given. Such events undermine local attention to the activities of the probation service and the system in which it works. Doubts are justified, and any Member of Parliament would have been concerned.
Those events have taken place over years, and I do not now take at face value what I am told by those who administer the probation service. I know that their task is enormously difficult, but what I am saying applies to every MP who has a prison or a bail hostel in their area. These are not easy decisions, yet it is cast on MPs to take on themselves tasks for which they are not properly prepared. I cannot oversee the work of the probation service and I cannot sit outside the bail hostel to see whether it works; I have to use the eyes and ears of those who live in the immediate area. I live not far from that area.
In the United States, a tragic incident occurred—the murder of a little girl called Megan. She was murdered by a neighbour who, the authorities subsequently acknowledged, had twice been convicted of sexual offences. In New Jersey, laws, based on the old common law, were passed to give common law rights to citizens to be advised of a danger. I shall read "A Citizen's Guide to Megan's Law" which answers common questions about the law. The guide is accessible through the modern media—through the internet and in other ways. The guide states: What is the purpose of Megan's Law? Megan's Law is designed to help protect our communities by providing information about convicted sex offenders to law enforcement agencies and, in the case of moderate and high risk offenders, community organizations and the public. The notice will allow communities to take informed and responsible steps to prevent harm. Are all sex offenders required to register with local police? Sex offenders who have been released from custody since Megan's Law went into effect on Oct. 31, 1994, are required to register with the police. In addition, offenders who were on parole or probation on the effective date of the law, as well as offenders who have been found to be repetitive and compulsive by experts and the courts—regardless of the date of sentence—are required to register. Some registrants must verify their addresses annually; others must verify their addresses every 90 days. What types of offenses require registration? The offenses include aggravated sexual assault, sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, endangering the welfare of a child by engaging in sexual conduct which would impair or debauch the morals of the child, luring or enticing and, if the victim were a minor and the offender not a parent, kidnapping, criminal restraint and false imprisonment. 1101 How does the notification process work? The state Departments of Corrections and Human Services are responsible for informing county prosecutors about the anticipated release of sex offenders. In turn, the prosecutors must determine risk to the community—the likelihood that the offender will commit another crime. Hearings are provided to those offenders who challenge the prosecutor's risk determination or the proposed scope of notification. Will I always be notified if a convicted sex offender moves into my neighborhood? Under the law, sex offenders who reside in the community are classified by prosecutors in one of three 'tiers' based on the degree of risk they pose to the public: high (Tier 3), moderate (Tier 2) or low (Tier 1). Neighbors are notified of high risk offenders. Registered community organizations involved with children or with victims of sexual abuse, schools, day care centers and summer camps are notified of moderate and high risk offenders because of the possibility that pedophiles and sexual predators will be drawn to these places. Staff members at those facilities who deal directly with children or victims are provided with information about the sex offender. Law enforcement agencies are notified of the presence of all sex offenders. What factors are considered in determining the risk of re-offense? Megan's Law and its guidelines list numerous factors to be considered in weighing the risk of re-offence, including post-incarceration supervision, the status of therapy or counseling, criminal background, degree of remorse for criminal acts, substance abuse, employment or schooling status, psychological or psychiatric profile, and a history of threats or of stalking locations where children congregate. What information is provided in a notification? In all three levels of notification, the information provided includes the offender's name, description and photograph, address, place of employment or school if applicable, a description of the offender's vehicle and license plate number, and a brief description of the offense. How will I be informed? You will receive personal notification of the location of all Tier 3 (high risk) offenders in your neighborhood that you are likely to encounter. A law enforcement official, such as a police officer, state police trooper or investigator from your county prosecutor's office, will come to your door and provide you with the pertinent information about offenders in your neighborhood. The guide answers the question What should I do if I receive a notification"? It continues: Are there any other steps I can take to protect my family? Yes, There is no law that can ever completely protect us. Adults need to teach children about basic safety precautions. Check with your child's school to determine whether a program is in place to teach children about strangers. Also, check with the school and other locations where your child spends time on a regular basis to determine whether safety precautions are in place. What am I prohibited from doing? The prosecutor and the courts are responsible to determine who should receive notice about the presence of a particular individual in the community. You should not take it upon yourself to provide any information you receive to others in the community; that is the job of the prosecutor and local law enforcement. Any actions taken against the individual named in the notification, including vandalism of property, verbal or written threats of harm, or physical violence against this person, his or her family or employer, will result in arrest and prosecution for criminal acts. Vigilantism is not only a crime, it is an action that will undermine the efforts of those who have worked hard to enact this law.
§ Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Has enough time been left for the Minister to respond? I do not that think that there will be enough time.
1102 § Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Michael J. Martin) Order. It is not for the Chair to stop an hon. Member who has initiated an Adjournment Debate, but it is normal courtesy to allow the Minister some time to respond. An Adjournment Debate is an occasion when Back-Bench Members can seek explanations from Ministers. However, the matter must be left entirely to the judgment of the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd).
§ Mr. Shepherd I apologise, Mr. Deputy Speaker; I was obviously thrown by the letter from the Home Secretary. The last paragraph of that letter threatens not to notify me of matters about which it is the Home Secretary's duty to inform an elected Member of Parliament. Having made that point, I shall sit down.
1.27 pm § The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Paul Boateng) I have three minutes in which to respond to the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Mr. Shepherd). He well knows that all Members of the House are concerned about dangerous offenders and sex offenders being accommodated in their constituencies. As he has acknowledged, he is also aware of the complex considerations that have to be made, and the difficult and delicate balance that has to be achieved, by the police and probation services in coming to decisions on the placement of such offenders.
The hon. Gentleman is aware that we, at the Home Office, take extremely seriously our role of ensuring that the risk to, and the protection of, the public are at the forefront of the minds of all those in agencies who make decisions on the placement of individuals in probation hostels. No one has taken more seriously than my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary his role of ensuring that public protection comes first on all occasions, in relation to dangerous offenders—especially sex offenders. My right hon. Friend initiated the special arrangements that now exist to advise and inform Members of decisions made about dangerous individuals who may be placed in their constituencies. None of my right hon. Friend's predecessors has taken as much care, and given as much attention to the problem as he has done. I hope that the hon. Member for Aldridge-Brownhills will give the Home Secretary credit for that. The hon. Gentleman nods his head. He will also appreciate that the Labour Government introduced the Sex Offenders Act 1997 and the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. We have set up systems to ensure that the police and probation services work more closely together than was previously the case on risk assessment for offenders inside and outside prisons. All that was designed to protect the public.
However, none of those measures will effectively secure the public interest if we cannot be satisfied that dangerous offenders are placed in hostel accommodation only when the necessary arrangements to protect the public are in place with the local police and probation services—occasionally with the local health service. In the full glare of publicity, that is seldom—if ever—the case. Through the hon. Gentleman's conduct of this particular case, he—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker Order. We must now move on to the next debate.
October 1999 saw plans to house a notorious child sex offender in Aldridge bail hostel dropped after the intervention of Richard Shepherd MP. The Home Office agreed to cancel plans to place 64-year-old Carl Michael Lundbech in Aldridge bail hostel, Walsall.
30th October 1999 Richard Shepherd upsets the Probation Services
Probation officers are setting up a series of meetings with MPs to try to prevent incidents such as the disclosure by a Conservative MP, Richard Shepherd, of a plan to house a sex offender in his constituency.
Mr Shepherd, who represents Aldridge-Brownhills in the West Midlands, said yesterday that he had no option but to release the information after listening to his conscience.
He acted after he was told in a letter from the home office minister, Paul Boateng, that a sex offender, Carl Michael Lundbech, would be moved into the Stonnall Road bail hostel, in Aldridge.
Lundbech, 64, has spent 39 of the last 43 years in prison for offences against children.
Mr Shepherd said: "How can we have confidence that something couldn't go wrong in this arrangement? There is a school very close by."
The disclosure has meant the plan has been aborted and Lundbech moved elsewhere.
The association of chief officers of probation yesterday criticised Mr Shepherd's disclosure. It is setting up meetings with various MPs over the next few weeks to discuss the dilemma.
Dick Marsh, assistant chief probation officer with the West Midlands probation service, said the plan had been only to hold Lundbech in the hostel for a fortnight before moving him elsewhere, and that he would have been under the tight security.
If MPs were as forthcoming with positive ideas for the management of sex offenders as they were in expressing reservations about having them on their own patch, progress might be made, he said.
House of commons debate January 20th 1994
§ Mr. Bermingham To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what percentage of persons remanded to a bail hostel during 1992 were charged with a subsequent offence.
§ Mr. Maclean The information requested is not readily available.
§ Mr. Bermingham To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action has been taken by the Home Office to deal with objections to the sitings of local bail hostels during the last three years.
§ Mr. Maclean In June 1990 the Home Office advised probation and voluntary managing committees of the need to assess local opinion as part of the process of developing an approved bail hostel; and in January 1993 the Home Office issued a development guide which stressed the importance of providing opportunities for local consultation and giving proper consideration to the views expressed. From time to time, Ministers and officials have, as necessary, met residents or their representives to discuss the issues raised by hostels proposals.
§ Mr. Bermingham To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what advice will be given to local magistrates who subsequently wished to consider a remand to a hostel in the event of the closure of a specific bail hostel.
§ Mr. Maclean It will be for the probation service concerned to bring to the attention of magistrates courts the facilities offered by approved hostels in its own or a neighbouring area.
§ Mr. Bermingham To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what objections to proposals to open a bail hostel the Home Office and local probation committees have received during the last three years.
§ Mr. Maclean In most cases where a new bail hostel has been proposed local residents and others have made representations against its development, arguing mainly on cost, crime and planning grounds.
§ Mr. Bermingham To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what percentage of persons remanded to a bail hostel during 1992 were breached for failure to comply with conditions;
(2) how many persons were remanded to a bail hostel in each of the last five years.
§ Mr. Maclean The information is not readily available in the form requested.
House of commons debate about bail hostels 14 October 1991
Mr. Shersby : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the present arrangements for supervising persistent offenders remanded to bail hostels ; when the last inspection of such hostels took place on a nationwide scale ; what plans he has for improving supervision ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. John Patten : All persons remanded to a bail hostel are subject to supervision by the staff, who maintain 24-hour coverage at the hostel. Hostel rules set out what conduct is acceptable at the hostel and include a night-time curfew. The residents are required to comply with their bail conditions and with the rules of the hostel. Residents who fail to comply are liable to be brought back to the courts to determine their disposal.
Current plans include the introduction of national standards for bail hostels now in preparation and due to come into force in October 1992. These will ensure that good practice in supervising residents is applied in every bail hostel. In particular, they will set out clear procedures to be followed if it appears that a resident has broken the conditions of his bail.
Responsibility for the inspection of bail and other approved hostels lies with Her Majesty's inspectorate of probation. Whilst they have inspected individual hostels as part of ordinary probation area inspection programmes, there has been no national inspection as such. The issue of the new national standards will, of course, now require the inspectorate to develop a suitable follow-up programme as well as requiring probation areas to undertake regular monitoring as part of their established local arrangements.
Mr. Shersby : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will publish in tabular form details of the number of bail hostels in England and Wales, showing their location and the number of places in each hostel ; and if he will make a statement on his plans for increasing the number of such hostels.
Mr. John Patten : There are 29 approved bail hostels in England and Wales providing a total of 602 places. The table gives their location and the number of places at each.
Persons on bail may also be accommodated in approved probation hostels. There are 82 such hostels in England and Wales, providing a total of 1,774 places for persons on bail and those subject to probation orders.
An expansion programme is already under way. This will provide 1, 200 additional bail places at approved bail or probation hostels between April 1988 and April 1994. A total of 577 of these additional places are already on stream.
Bail hostels in England and Wales in October 1991
Probation Area.- Hostel.- Location.- Beds.
Mr. Shersby : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what further consideration he has given to the committing of further offences by those released on bail ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. John Patten : Following discussion with senior police officers, I have asked Home Office researchers to undertake an urgent review of the recent studies by police forces, and of other work in this area. We shall consider what further action may reduce offending by people released on bail in the light of this review.
Mr. Shersby : To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make an estimate of the cost to public funds during the last 12- month period for which figures are available of keeping remand prisoners in police station cells ; and what had been the comparable cost of detaining them in prison.
Mrs. Rumbold : The total cost for holding prisoners in police cells which has been paid during the 12 month period October 1990 to September 1991 was £43,905,022.
The average weekly cost of keeping a prisoner in a police cell is £1,540 per week. The average weekly cost of keeping a prisoner in a local prison was £309 per week during the year 1988-89 which is the latest period for which figures are available.
I regret that it is not possible to provide a breakdown between remand and other classes of prisoners held in police cells.
Information about PROBATION WEST MIDLANDS
The punishment and rehabilitation of offenders is at the heart of the criminal justice system and the Probation Service aims to:
Protect the public.
Probation West Midlands oversees the second largest area in England and Wales, covering the seven local authorities of Birmingham, Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall, Wolverhampton, Coventry and Solihull. The Area has a predominantly urban population of 2.5 million, including more than 1 million in the City of Birmingham, and has approximately 1,500 staff in total, with 450 qualified probation officers. The current year’s budget is more than £45 million.
The Probation Service deals with offenders who are aged 18 years and over and who are sentenced in the adult courts while the Youth Offending Service supervises offenders under the age of 18 years. Every year in the West Midlands, Probation staff supervise over 10,000 new cases. Of these, more than 8,000 people receive community sentences and over 500,000 hours of community punishment are worked. The Area also works with more than 5,000 offenders on pre-release and 1,500 on post-release from prison, around 2,500 people on release from prison on licence and, on average, up to 600 on drug treatment and testing orders. Probation West Midlands comprises four divisions covering Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull, Dudley and Sandwell, and Walsall and Wolverhampton. Each has several area offices and within each division there will be a: Public Protection Team (high risk offenders). Case Management Teams (medium risk offenders). Resource Centre Teams (low risk offenders). The Area runs seven Approved Probation Hostels, which can cater for offenders on bail but increasingly are directly towards accommodating those on community orders or resettlement licences. Crowley House and Elliott House are national resources. Crowley House Hostel (for women) - Selly Oak, Birmingham. Elliott House (for male mentally disordered offenders) - Moseley, Birmingham. Carpenter House Hostel - Edgbaston, Birmingham. Welford House Hostel - Aston, Birmingham. Bilston Hostel - Bilston, Wolverhampton. Stonnall Road Hostel - Aldridge, Walsall. Sycamore Lodge Hostel - Oldbury. In addition, Probation staff work in the Magistrates’ and Crown Courts, community punishment units, prisons, young offender institutions, programme units and victim units. Working in Courts When an individual is charged, court proceedings result and Probation Officers advise the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) on the suitability of the offender for bail. Following the outcome of a case, Probation staff compile a Pre Sentence Report to help Magistrates and Judges make decisions about sentencing. In serious cases, this means an adjournment of approximately 15 working days between the finding of guilt and sentencing. In this instance, the report will include a detailed examination of the offender’s background and behaviour, assessments on the risk of harm to the public, the offender’s readiness to change and their suitability for a community sentence and rehabilitation programme. It may even propose a suitable sentence. For less serious cases, a Short Format Report is produced and this can be done on the same day, usually within an hour of the case being heard. This report is becoming more popular as it speeds up the sentencing process in straightforward cases where a community sentence is the appropriate option. Supervising Offenders and Community Sentences Every year, more than 8,000 people receive community sentences - the four main sentences are: The Community Punishment Order (formerly known as Community Service Orders) - probably one of the better known sentences enforced by the Probation Service. These schemes aim to restrict personal freedom of offenders, produce something useful for the local community and get them to contribute towards repairing the harm caused by the original offences. The Community Rehabilitation Order. The Community Punishment and Rehabilitation Order. The Drug Treatment and Testing Order. Failure to comply with the strict requirements of any of these orders can mean a return to court for re-sentencing and possible imprisonment. Working with Prisoners About a third of the Probation Service’s workload is with offenders in prison or on release and Probation staff work in Birmingham Prison, as well as Brinsford Young Offenders Institute in Wolverhampton. Their main responsibilities include preparing information and risk assessments on prisoners being considered for early release but they also work with voluntary and specialist agencies offering advice and support to prisoners, helping them to be resettled into the community and liaising with colleagues, who will supervise a prisoner after they are released. Most prisoners serving 12 months or more do not serve all of their sentence in custody but are released to serve the rest of their sentence in the community. Offenders must report to their local Probation Office, which will draw up a supervision plan to prevent re-offending and address any housing, employment or resettlement issues. Any breach of the licence can mean a return to prison to serve the remainder of the sentence in custody. In addition, there are various ‘tagging’ schemes and Home Detention Curfews, which means that prisoners can, subject to satisfactory assessment of risk to the public, apply for release under electronic surveillance. A monitoring device is fitted to the offender’s ankle and linked to sensors at their home address. During the day, the offender is free to leave the house, but they are subject to strict overnight curfews. Working with Victims Through the Area’s Victim Unit (which has offices in Coventry, Birmingham and Wolverhampton) victims of sexual or violent crime are provided with information about offenders given custodial sentences of more than 12 months of more. This has recently become a national statutory requirement, but has been standard practice in the West Midlands for some time. It means that victims and their families can be kept informed about the offender’s sentence, their progress in prison and any decisions concerning release as well as the safeguards available after the offender is released. Victims can express views, raise concerns and make sure their wishes are known. In addition, the Probation Service works with offenders through a Restorative Justice scheme to make them understand the impact their crimes have had - and may continue to have - on their victims. Through this scheme, victims receive information about their offender and can suggest how the offender should make amends. Mediation between offenders and victims has been used since 1985 but restorative justice now includes the option of victims and offenders meeting. This provides a chance for the offender to apologise and explain why they committed their crime, and such explanations can help victims overcome anxieties about why the offender did what they did.
© Copyright Alan Neath. 2005 - All Rights Reserved
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