Sex offenders are being housed in budget hotels on their release from prison without the knowledge of guests or owners, two watchdogs have found.
A shortage of probation hostels means men are being sent to the hotels, where families might be staying, in a move that has been condemned by campaigners and politicians as exposing the public to “unnecessary risk”.
The joint report from the prisons and probations watchdogs expressed concerns that the public was not being protected enough from those at risk of reoffending, as its author, chief inspector of probation Dame Glenys Stacey, said people would find it “unacceptable”.
One sex offender assessed as high-risk to the public was put up in a night shelter, the report found, as it assessed failings of prison management to deter reoffending among sex offenders who had been jailed for up to four years.
Among the five prisons assessed by inspectors, two of them were found to have no formal approach to tackling sex offending, while the National Probation Service (NPS) is not tackling offending behaviour among four in 10 sexual offenders on probation, it was found.
A fifth (around 21,000) of the 107,000 people supervised by the NPS are sex offenders.
Inspectors looked at 120 probation cases and found that just 17 of the 42 offenders ordered to start a programme to reduce reoffending risk had done so.
Stacey said: “Sexual offence convictions are increasingly common, yet despite evidence that we can reduce the risk of these individuals reoffending, little if any meaningful work is being done in prisons. With many probation staff unsure what to do for the best with sexual offenders under probation supervision, the public are not sufficiently protected. This makes no sense.”
The Ministry of Justice said budget hotels were a last resort used when there are issues with probation hostels, adding that full risk-assessments were carried out.
Prisons Minister Rory Stewart told MPs that the government “will work very, very hard” to ensure convicted sex offenders are no longer housed in hotels.
Mr Stewart told the Commons that this had happened in a “very small number of cases” and estimated of the roughly 10,000 people released each year “54, 55, sometimes 56 of them will end up being in some form of emergency accommodation” and of those “something like half a dozen would end up in this form of hotel accommodation”.
He added: “Before they’re put in that type of accommodation police and probation services will have conducted a very detailed risk assessment and would have ensured that the individual put in that type of accommodation is not an individual who posed a risk of a contact offence to a stranger.”