Sex offenders are housed in high street budget hotels without the knowledge of owners or customers because places in closely guarded hostels are not available, inspectors have found.
Prison and probation officers concluded in a damning report that not enough was being done to protect the public from sex offenders, with hundreds of people who had been released from prison doing no work to reduce the risk of recurrence.
Probation officers were not carrying out enough safety checks, including those carried out to protect children, inspectors found.
Chief Inspector of Probation, Dame Glenys Stacey, said: ‘Sex offense convictions are increasingly common, but despite evidence that we can reduce the risk of these people re-offending, little or no work significant is carried out in prisons.
“With many probation staff unsure of what to do best with sex offenders under supervision, the public is not adequately protected. It does not mean anything.
“There must be a renewed national effort to ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to protect the public. Prison and probation staff need better training and support, and the ability to work with offenders in known ways to reduce the risk of re-offending.
Inspectors visited five men’s prisons, including one for sex offenders and another for young people, examining 53 cases. A total of 120 probation cases were reviewed in five areas.
About a fifth of the 106,819 probation cases nationwide are sex offenders – around 21,000 – and inspectors found that in two-fifths of the cases they reviewed, no work had focused on the reduced risk of sexual offending.
In addition to two cases where offenders were sent to a budget hotel instead of approved premises, formerly known as bond homes, there was one case where an inmate used another inmate’s phone account to contact his victim.
Inspectors said the prison was too slow to respond and failed to monitor prisoners’ mail and phone communications, as expected. There are 13,580 prisoners serving prison sentences for sexual offences, almost a fifth of the prison population.
The joint report by HM Inspectorate of Probation and HM Inspectorate of Prisons said: ‘We expect prison and probation services to work with sex offenders to reduce the risk that they repeat offenders and to protect the public from harm.
“In the cases we inspected, there was not enough work done, either in prison or after release, to reduce recidivism or to protect the public.
“In too many cases in prisons we have found that little or nothing is being done to reduce the risk of recidivism, especially in cases that are not suitable for an accredited program (a course to help stop recidivism) .”
Among the 120 probation cases examined by the inspectors, only 17 offenders had started a program aimed at reducing the risk of recidivism, out of 42 sentenced to follow one.
Inspectors said proper protective checks were not being carried out – in a third of cases not enough was being done to protect children – and more than a third of offenders had not been visited at home after their release, which would allow staff to verify who they were living with and where.
The number of inmates serving immediate custodial sentences for sexual offenses is at its highest level since 2002.
Since the previous such inspection in 2010, the number of registered sex offenders has increased from 34,939 in March 2010 to 58,637 in March 2018.
At national level, there is a 25% shortage of places for all offenders in approved premises.
Inspectors said they “saw two examples of men convicted of sex offenses being released to budget hotels or other temporary accommodation. We struggled to see how such an accommodation could be defensible in terms of protecting the public. Other hotel residents are likely to be transients and closely watch the problem offenders.
On probation, there were 42 cases where the offender should have been enforced for not showing up for an appointment, violating license conditions or committing some other offence.
But in nearly half of the cases, no action was taken by the responsible officer.
The watchdogs made a series of recommendations, calling for “urgent and much-needed progress in the management and supervision of sex offenders”.
Chief Inspector of Prisons Peter Clarke said: ‘We have found too many cases in prisons where little or nothing has been done to reduce the risk of re-offending. This serves neither the public interest nor that of the prisoners who need help to change their behavior before being released back into the community.
Prisons minister Rory Stewart said the government will “work very hard” to ensure convicted sex offenders are no longer put up in hotels on release from prison.
He told the House of Commons that this had happened in a “very small number of cases” and estimated that of the approximately 10,000 people released each year, “54, 55, sometimes 56 of them will end up find themselves in a form of emergency accommodation”. and of these, “something like half a dozen would end up in this form of hotel accommodation“.
Stewart added: ‘Prior to being placed in this type of accommodation, the police and probation services will have carried out a very detailed risk assessment and ensured that the individual placed in this type of accommodation is not not an individual who presented a risk of offensive contact with a stranger.