By NIALL O'CONNOR
Sex offenders should be given homes by local authorities on their release from prison, according to a report being considered by Justice Minister Alan Shatter.
A high-level plan devised by a number of powerful state agencies recommends that sex offenders be placed in social housing estates and apartment complexes so as to avoid homelessness.
The plan, which relates to the Dublin region, is designed to assist sex offenders who have just left prison or returned from abroad.
The state agencies, which include An Garda Siochana, the Irish Prison Service and the HSE, recommended the setting up of "placement committees" who will decide where sex offenders should live.
According to the plan, the following steps will take place:
- Offenders will undergo a risk assessment prior to their release from prison, categorising them as low risk, medium risk, high risk or very high risk.
- They will liaise with an official local authority staff member prior to their release.
- A placement committee will decide what "suitable" estate or apartment complex the offender should reside in. This committee will meet at least every two months.
The "implementation plan", seen by the Irish Independent, has been brought to the attention of the Justice Minister.
However, a spokeswoman for the minister insisted that work on the plan is "ongoing".
According to the report, councils would be obliged to take part in an "exchange" programme involving the transfer of sex offenders "due to victim and offender protection issues".
It states that "wherever possible, sex offenders on release from prison should be accommodated in housing services rather than in emergency homeless accommodation".
The report added: "Local authorities will have a responsibility to consider the move on accommodation requirements of all sex offenders including those placed in the proposed supported temporary accommodation unit for very high-risk offenders."
If implemented, the radical measures will shift the onus of housing responsibility on to local authorities.
The report added: "It is currently difficult to place offenders who've been convicted of a sex offence into emergency, transitional or long-term social housing due to concerns regarding public protection, the risk of reoffending and the potential reaction of local communities."
Serious concern has been raised about the current system, which leaves sex offenders staying for weeks and months on end in hostels and temporary accommodation when they leave prison.