1,300 Dangerous Criminals Put In Hostels Instead Of Overcrowded Prisons

Almost 1,300 of the country’s most dangerous criminals are living at the heart of the community in bail hostels, it has emerged. They include 98 in the ‘very high risk category’ – which includes killers, sex offenders and violent thugs the authorities consider extremely likely to strike again.

The revelation is yet another blow to John Reid, who has been rocked by a series of public protection scandals.

Many of the bail and probation hostels housing the freed criminals are only yards from schools and houses.

Critics said it was yet more proof dangerous convicts are being freed from jail early to ease chronic overcrowding.

In July 2005, 40 per cent of offenders living in bail hostels were considered a ‘high risk’ to the public. That has now risen to an alarming 66 per cent.

It suggests the hostels, previously a place for less risky offenders, are now being used as a clearing house for convicts who would previously have remained behind bars for longer.

Liberal Democrat spokesman Nick Clegg, who uncovered the figures with a Parliamentary question, said: ‘We have been warning the Government for months that low-security bail hostels are not the right place for very high risk offenders.

‘The Government still insists on jeopardising public safety by moving the wrong offenders into these hostels in an ever more desperate panic to deal with their own prison overcrowding crisis.

‘This mixture of arrogance and incompetence shows the Government’s continued contempt for the legitimate concerns of the public.’

There are 100 ‘approved premises’ for high-risk offenders across England and Wales. The hostels are not normally secure premises with heavy security, but ordinary buildings in residential streets.

Many have nothing to identify them as Home Office-run premises and those who use them are usually free to mix with the local community.

Home Secretary Mr Reid said the number of ‘high risk’ offenders in hostels was 1,191. There are a further 98 in the ‘very high risk’ category – giving a total of 1,289.

The ratings reflect scores given to criminals as they pass through the criminal justice system of how likely they are to reoffend, and the threat they pose to the public.

It is based on their past criminality, behaviour and reports by probation and medical staff. There have been a series of brutal murders by dangerous offenders placed in bail hostels.

Cases include Davidson Charles, who was staying at a hostel in Bristol when he stabbed cabbie Colin Winstone through the heart in 2005.

He had been released from prison on licence half way through a four year sentence for robbery and was supposedly being supervised and monitored by probation officers.

Psycopath Damien Hanson was also living in a hostel at the time he murdered banker John Monckton and left his wife Homeyra for dead in November 2004.

A documentary by Panorama also revealed sex offenders living in bail hostels were being allowed to get dangerously close to children without any action being taken.

Those caught on film included paedophile and child-killer Frank Parker, befriending children and speaking of taking a photo of a semi-naked teenager.

Paedophile Kevin Rogers was filmed standing outside public toilets at a Bristol shopping centre and secretly taking pictures nearby.

It is a fresh headache for Mr Reid, who is still trying to sort out the fiasco of prisoners absconding from open jails.

On Saturday, Phil Wheatley, the director-general of the Prison Service, admitted not knowing how many are on-the-run because there is no system for keeping count.

He has promised one will now be established. Critics say inappropriate prisoners, who should be in secure conditions, are being sent to open jails as another consequence of overcrowding.

The prison system is currently only a few hundreds spaces below its 80,000 capacity.