Row over housing of sex offenders Thompson House, 426-428 Antrim Rd, Belfast
The reopening of a north Belfast hostel has caused controversy after Justice Minister David Ford rejected calls to reconsider housing sex offenders and in particulour paedophiles in the facility.
Among the ex-offenders housed in this hostel are some of the most dangerous sex offenders to have passed through the courts in recent years. Some of these have gone on to re-offend, committing murder, horrendous rape and child molestation.
Thompson House on the Antrim Road has been refurbished to house 19 offenders.
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.
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.”