Prisoners: Bail Hostels

Justice written question – answered on 5th February 2008.

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Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Labour, Great Grimsby

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice

(1) for what reasons he is considering accommodating prisoners in bail hostels; what types of prisoners he is considering for that accommodation; and in what locations;

(2) what consultations he plans to hold with police and local authorities before housing rented for asylum seekers is used as bail hostels;

(3) what plans he has to establish further bail houses in North East Lincolnshire; what category of prisoner each will accommodate; and what capacity each will have.

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson The Minister of State, Ministry of Justice

I understand these questions to refer to the Bail Accommodation and Support Service. These are not bail hostels. The service provides accommodation in flats and houses with up to five people sharing, and support to users.

We are providing this service because we consider that prison should be reserved for those who need to be held in custody in order to protect the public. Those defendants, innocent until proven guilty, who can be bailed should be so. Judges and magistrates have consistently asked that we provide more bail accommodation because there are numbers of defendants without accommodation whom the courts consider can be bailed if such accommodation, with necessary support, is made available. Similarly there are prisoners eligible for release on home detention curfew, with a tag, who cannot be released because they do not have an address at which they can be curfewed. The service enables prison governors to make decisions to release such people. It is not in the public interest to keep in prison people who do not need to be there.

The service is available for defendants whom the courts have assessed as suitable for bail, and for sentenced prisoners released on home detention curfew after a thorough risk assessment by the prison governor. Excluded from the service are those convicted of or charged with sex offences, those convicted of arson in the last 10 years or charged with arson and those who pose a significant risk to the public or to ClearSprings staff or to others in a shared house.

A list of towns or areas where accommodation is currently provided or is being sought was included in my written answer of 21 January 2008, Hansard, column 1655W).

12 ClearSprings properties now used for the Bail Accommodation and Support Service were used previously for the ClearSprings asylum contract. The local authorities and police were consulted as to suitability, and were advised when the premises were made available for BASS.

There is currently one four-bed property in Grimsby. This was not previously used for asylum seekers. A three-bed property is being sought in Scunthorpe. This requirement has been identified by the regional offender manager in discussion with probation and taking account of the volume of defendants through the courts.

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