Row over housing of sex offenders

Published Tuesday, 13 November 2012
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The reopening of a north Belfast hostel has caused controversy after Justice Minister David Ford rejected calls to reconsider housing sex offenders in the facility.

Row over housing of sex offenders
Thompson House has been refurbished and is due to reopen. (© UTV)

Thompson House on the Antrim Road has been refurbished to house 19 offenders and is due to reopen.

The hostel is run by the Presbyterian Church and Lindsay Conway from the Board of Social Witness said the new facility is the result of a public safety debate and he claims that it will help "reduce risk".

"We are better to know where sex offenders are, that they are being monitored and that they are being kept to the special conditions of their settlement plan and that that is built into the technology and to the staffing levels in Thompson House," he said.

We would never pretend to say that there is zero risk. We can only reduce the risk.

Lindsay Conway, Presbyterian Board of Social Witness

Mr Conway added: "We can in that case make a real case for saying, right this is the environment in which they need to respond to what has already happened in prison, within their treatment programs and we continue that into the community."

But Patrick Wilson, of the Cavehill Antrim Road Regeneration Group says that he does not object to the church's role in the rehabilitation of ex-prisoners.

He objects to the location of the hostel as he says it is not appropriate to house sex offenders there.

"Eighty feet away from the front door is a vulnerable children's home, 0.2 miles is the nearest school and crèche, the whole area is surrounded by five schools, four crèches and two children's homes," he said.

"We should not expose children to this and hundreds of them will go by every day walking past the front door, we should not expose them to this type of risk," he added.

Mr Conway said the parole board is ultimately responsible for deciding when offenders are ready to be discharged.

"Probation will be supervising and the whole arrangements will be well locked into the system so it is not the church doing this on their own, it is the part of a wider support which we would love to involve the community in take it forward from that point of view."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Pat in Belfast wrote (806 days ago):
No hysterical nonsense here Mike or any nimbyism. This particular hostel is like no others. If you had read the news, followed parliamentary debates and perhaps even followed a few court cases you may have discovered that there have been breaches by residents from that house over many years, indeed some have even robbed and murdered people within the community whilst residing there. Some of the most heinous child killers known have stayed in that house and walk the area outside their curfew hours as part of their rehabilitation. If you think that’s an acceptable risk beside a particularly high concentration of schools, vulnerable children’s homes and crèches in a residential area, perhaps you need to take up some further education yourself. As a society we need to put child safety first, not to apply this ideal here shows gross negligence.
Mike in Belfast wrote (807 days ago):
What a load of hysterical nonsense. Have these people nothing else to do with their time but pander to the fears of the uneducated. A classic case of not in my backyard whipped up with a good old dose of foundless hysteria.
Anthony in North Belfast wrote (807 days ago):
So the presbyterian church sets up this hostel in a nationalist neighbourhood, was there no room in there own comunities? why not have it on shore road or ballysillian? or do they want it kept well away from there children?
M.B. in North Belfast wrote (807 days ago):
Madness, absolutely madness to site this sex offenders hostel here and there should be a public enquiry into this shameful episode. It would be different if this was on a side street, in a secluded area or within it's own grounds but this is a very large building on the main Antrim Road in North Belfast and it is surrounded by public/private housing; primary/secondary schools; creches; childrens hostels and older peoples care homes. The hostel is on a prominant corner site and 1000's of people, especially schoolchildren, have to walk past it every day. The very presence of the hostel on the main road in North Belfast in full view of families with young children and older schoolkids is very disturbing as it unsettles people and is extremely disconcerting for them; this should never have been allowed to happen. Once again North Belfast politicians especially Sinn Fein, the SDLP and DUP have abandoned ordinary, decent people to their fate; shame on them! They do nothing for us except take our taxpayers money for big pay rises.
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