Public to be consulted on bail hostel locations

By Liz Stephens

The locations of bail accommodation will face public consultation for the first time in a new joint initiative between the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Ministry of Justice.

However, the final decision on location will be made by the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), and critics argue this could mean the wishes of local people are disregarded anyway.

The news comes after widespread public concerns that supported bail hostels, which house offenders released before the end of their sentences or people on bail awaiting trial, were being located randomly within local communities.

Councils had voiced unhappiness that private contractor ClearSprings, who are under contract by the Ministry of Justice to provide supported bail accommodation, was not undertaking any surveys of local opinion before opening facilities.

But if ClearSprings and the local authority cannot reach agreement on the location of a unit, the dispute will be referred to NOMS.

LGA vice chair Cllr Sir Jeremy Beecham said: “Properly located and adequately supervised bail accommodation is an effective way of dealing with people awaiting trial or reaching the end of their sentences.

“This protocol puts in place a series of undertakings to ensure bail accommodation will be based in the right places and with the right level of consultation.

“This will help ensure that the people on bail or early release will not come up against resentment from local people who have been unnecessarily alarmed.”

There are currently more than 196 units in England and Wales, a figure which is set to rise to 230.

Under the new protocol, ClearSprings will also be obligated to avoid properties being too close together.