Sex offender strategy ‘not fit for purpose’, landlords warn
A group of 15 community-based housing associations in Glasgow are demanding that the Scottish Government carry out a root and branch review of its strategy for providing housing for sex offenders.
The issues has been controversial since the current framework was established in 2007. The National Accommodation Strategy for Sex Offenders (NASSO) promotes a multi-agency approach involving the police, councils, health boards and the Scottish Prison Service. These “Responsible Authorities” are charged with monitoring the behaviour of sex offenders and protecting the public.
The group of small landlords, known as the NASSO Awareness Group, fear that the current system is under-resourced and claim that it lacks transparency. They cite the continuing number of high profile cases involving sex offenders reoffending as evidence that the current system is not fit for purpose.
The group says that the strategy results in higher numbers of sex offenders being housed in the most vulnerable communities and Freedom of Information requests appear to confirm their fears. The FOI requests appear to show concentrations of sex offenders in particular areas. More recently, there also appears to be an increase in more affluent areas, possibly in private lets.
The Responsible Authorities say that there are probably sex offenders living in every community. But the housing associations point out that the NASSO results in sex offenders, particularly the higher risk offenders being released from prison, being deliberately placed in communities that are already under the most pressure.
Alan Benson, director of Milnbank Housing Association, said: “Some housing associations have been campaigning on this issue for over 10 years. The senseless and avoidable murder of eight year old Mark Cummings in Royston alerted community based housing providers to the serious dangers of housing sex offenders in our communities. The Responsible Authorities say that, whilst risk can’t be eliminated, sex offenders have to be housed somewhere. But that shouldn’t mean that our communities must carry more than their fair share of the risk. The current strategy is unfair and unjust. We will continue to seek a fundamental review of this policy that places our communities at risk and aim to take our campaign to the Scottish Government and seek the support of our local councillors and MSPs.”
According to the group, the Scottish Government refuses to acknowledge that the strategy for housing sex offenders in communities has never been reviewed since 2007. This is despite high profile cases, such as Thomas Bennie Smith in Cronberry, Ayrshire, and George Cameron in Toryglen, Glasgow, showing that the arrangements for providing a house and monitoring the offender are flawed. It is the housing part of the system that they want urgently re-examined.
A significant number of community based housing associations in Glasgow have refused to sign an Information Sharing Protocol with the council. They say that the failure to properly monitor and supervise sex offenders is a cause for public concern that needs to be highlighted. They say that participating in such a flawed process would threaten to bring their organisations into disrepute and want an open and transparent discussion on this issue to be initiated.
Paul Martin MSP, a long standing critic of the sex offender policy, said: “I share the concerns that this group of housing associations are highlighting and I support their call for a review of the system that results in some areas bearing an unreasonable share of the risk from housing dangerous sex offenders being released from prison. It’s an issue I have raised in the Scottish Parliament on many occasions and it remains an important issue for my constituents.”
The housing association members of the NASSO Awareness Group are: Blochairn (Royston); Cathcart & District; Cernach (Drumchapel); Craigdale (Castlemilk); Drumchapel; Easthall Park (Easterhouse); Elderpark (Govan); Gardeen (Barlanark); Kendoon (Drumchapel); Kingsridge/Cleddens (Drumchapel); Linthouse (Govan); Milnbank (Dennistoun); Pineview (Drumchapel); Provanhall (Easterhouse); Ruchazie.