Northern Ireland

How sex offenders are reintroduced to society

Image caption Many sex offenders are free to live anywhere they choose once they are released

When offenders leave prison, they will live in the community and, unless conditions on their accommodation are ordered by the court, they can theoretically live where they choose.

The agencies involved in the risk management process do recognise and pay careful consideration to the fact that access to sustainable and suitable accommodation is a significant factor in preventing re-offending and reducing the risk that sex offenders present within the community.

The objective with each offender is to agree an accommodation solution which is consistent with their risk management plan, including victim aspects and addresses and their supervision requirements.

Each case is considered carefully and decisions on accommodation are approved by a number of interested agencies including the police and social services. The location and type of accommodation will always be determined by the individual offender's circumstances.

In some circumstances, offenders will reside in hostels.

Hostels provide an enhanced level of supervision over and above anything else outside of prison and they afford the opportunity to better manage the risk posed by some offenders and to gather information and intelligence in an ongoing way so that the agencies can be satisfied that they should remain in the community.

There are a number of reasons why offenders could be in hostels:

  • Because they are subject to strict requirements of the courts
  • Because they have been assessed as requiring close supervision
  • Because they have personal circumstances that may make them more likely to offend
  • Because alternative accommodation would place the public at greater risk

In practice, less than 5% of the total number of sex/violent offenders in the community, whose cases are being managed within the Public Protection Arrangements, will be residing in hostels at any particular point in time.

Research shows that offenders who are successfully accommodated in approved hostels are more likely to make a successful transition to stable community living.

Whilst living in hostels, offenders are subject to restrictions as part of their risk management.

These include curfews, the requirement to confirm activities during specified times, the monitoring of behaviour, the control of alcohol consumption, the provision of intensive support through a key worker system which links them with designated members of staff and structured days, including attendance at approved training facilities and treatment programmes.

None of the statutory agencies own hostels. However, they do "approve" hostels which are owned and/or run by other organisations.

"Approved" hostels are funded to accommodate offenders through the government's Supporting People initiative, which is administered by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

Access to sustainable and suitable accommodation is a significant factor in preventing re-offending and reducing the risk that sex offenders present within the community.

BBC NI Home Affairs Correspondent Vincent Kearney is examining the controversial issue of sex offenders and how they are managed. The week-long series will be running from Monday June 13 on BBC Newsline and BBC Radio Ulster.

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