Reid orders bail hostel review

There will be an urgent review of bail hostel procedures after undercover reporters revealed convicted paedophiles were left at liberty to re-offend.

A BBC documentary set to be screened tomorrow investigates criminals on early release staying at bail hostels.

The programme reportedly shows convicted paedophiles befriending children, taking pictures in a shopping centre, and loitering in public toilets.

Home secretary John Reid responded to the allegations, saying: “These are serious allegations and I am totally committed to protecting the public.

“Consequently I have asked Andrew Bridges, the chief inspector of probation, to urgently review whether there is a case for an investigation of the management and operation of the approved premises mentioned by the programme.”

The documentary is based on five months of investigations into two hostels in Bristol, housing high-risk offenders.

In the programme, managers at the bail hostel say that once offenders leave the building they do not know what they are doing.

“We can keep an eye on them until they walk to the end of that path, once they turn left or right we haven’t got a clue what they are doing,” one worker is recorded saying.

The investigation also claims criminals were pimping and shoplifting to pay for drug habits, even though they were in a hostel which specialised in drug rehabilitation.

A home office spokesman expressed “disappointment” that Panorama did not interview the chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, who is responsible for the implementation of the policy, “to ensure the programme is balanced and accurate”.

Opposition parties have said the government is to blame for a situation where convicted offenders go unsupervised.

Shadow home affairs minister Edward Garnier said: “There is no doubt that the supervision of post-custody offenders in the community and of serious offenders released on parole has been patchy, to say the least, with terrible consequences in a few cases.

“This is entirely the result of the government’s vast reduction in funding for face to face interviews in prison of those applying for parole.”

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Nick Clegg added: “Any review of bail hostels must explain why they are being used to house more serious offenders, instead of the lower risk people who used to occupy most beds.

“About 60 per cent of those in hostels are high or very high risk to the public, up from 40 per cent last year, and the problem is getting worse.

“A lasting solution needs to start with more investment in secure specialist treatment facilities, thereby relieving pressure on over-burdened hostels. More prison places six years from now is not enough.”

  • The Panorama programme, Exposed: the Bail Hostel Scandal, will be screened on Wednesday November 9th at 21:00 GMT.