Sex offenders are being housed in budget hotels after being released from prison in a move that could put the public at risk, a watchdog has warned.
HM Inspectorates of Probation and Prisons found that a shortage of approved premises meant “unsuitable accommodation” including homeless hostels were being used.
They warned that the risk of released sex offenders committing more attacks was also being increased by the failure to use rehabilitation programmes designed to change their behaviour.
In one case, a probation officer put a man who posed “a high risk of harm” in an unnamed budget hotel because his booked room at a probation hostel was unsuitable for his disability.
The sex offender, who had served four years in prison, was moved into another hotel after two weeks and was still there at the time of the inspection.
Dame Glenys Stacey, HM chief inspector of probation, told The Independent: “We found a very poor picture in prisons overall – prisoners being released with unacceptable accommodation is part and parcel of that.
“It isn’t acceptable to have individuals put in accommodation that the general public will be using, unaware of the risk.
“I’m sure that hotel staff are not trained for the arrival of these people, they’re expecting the broad array of the general public and the risk is apparent.”
Only two cases where budget hotels used were found in a sample of 53 examined for the report, but with more than 13,500 sex offenders in prison and more than 20,000 under National Probation Service (NPS) supervision, national figure could be far larger.
“Unless they are effectively managed, with those sort of numbers we can expect risks to materialise,” Dame Glenys said.
“Even if we lock people away, they are released, and so it’s extremely important that the best work is done to protect the public.
“We need a renewed national effort now, this work has got to be prioritised and we need to get it right from start to finish.”
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said hotels were only used temporarily in “exceptional circumstances”, and after a risk assessment by the NPS and the police.
But while inside prison, risk assessments were not completed to a good standard in a third of inspected cases, and were sometimes seen by staff as “a box to tick”, the report said.
Prison officers said they were often too busy “firefighting” other problems, amid a national crisis of drugs and violence, to work with sex offenders and often did not have adequate training or support.
Accredited programmes designed to reduce reoffending were being underused, the report said, with two inspected prisons not running the courses at all.
Chief inspector of prisons Peter Clarke said: “We found too many cases in prisons where little, if anything, was done to reduce the likelihood of reoffending. This is serving neither the public interest nor that of those prisoners who need help to change their behaviour before being released back into the community.”
For four in 10 of recently released sexual offenders, the NPS was found to be doing no work to address their behaviour, and in a third of cases not enough was being done to protect children.
Inspectors used their powers to demand immediate action on a man convicted of violence, sexual assault and drug possession with intent to supply after finding he was in contact with unprotected children.
Around 14 per cent of sexual offenders commit another crime, of any kind, within a year of being released according to government figures.
Separate research has the sexual reoffending rate at 2.2 per cent within two years of release or conviction.
At a national level, inspectors warned of a disconnect between the prison and probation service’s vision of its work with sex offenders and the reality.
They said the government had an “incomplete picture” of the changing mix of sex offenders, as the number of convicted groomers, historic child abusers and gang members rises.
The inspectorates made 15 recommendations to the MoJ, which said it would produce an action plan and is increasing probation hostel provision.
“When sex offenders are released, they are closely monitored by police and probation and subject to strict licence conditions – and liable to be returned to custody for breaching them,” prisons and probation minister Rory Stewart said.
“However, the inspectors raise very serious concerns – we will get to the bottom of the problems this report raises and tackle them one by one.”
He said a new director general for probation was developing a dedicated approach to sex offenders, amid investment for training and the deployment of specialist probation officers.