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Clacton: MP concerned a “disproportionate” number of ex-offenders are heading for Clacton

19:43 27 January 2014

Douglas Carswell, MP for Clacton

Douglas Carswell, MP for Clacton

Archant

An MP has voiced concerns for law and order in his local town, which he says has become a magnet for people leaving prison.

Figures obtained via a Freedom of Information request by Clacton MP Douglas Carswell show that in the 12 months to October 31 2013, 67 rail warrants were issued to released prisoners from Chelmsford prison heading to Clacton. Over the same period one rail warrant was issued for Walton-on-the-Naze while there were none for Frinton and surrounding villages in the constituency.

Mr Carswell said he believes the prime reasons why a “disproportionate” number of ex-offenders are heading for Clacton are the large amount of bedsits in the centre of the town and the existence of a number of public-funded agencies who provide emergency accommodation for people.

He said: ““Several shopkeepers and local residents have come to see me with concerns about law and order issues in the centre of our town.

“If a disproportionate number of ex-offenders are coming to our town centre, it is not going to be good for Clacton – or much good for the ex-offenders. “It suits public-funded agencies to accommodate ex-offenders in the town but if there are no jobs or opportunities to help them to turn their lives around there’s is no point accommodating them here.”

Mr Carswell said he applauded moves by Tendring District Council to curb the spread of “bedsit land” but said a sizeable number of bedsits were already in existence.

Last year the authority introduced new powers to control the number of properties being converted into bedsits or house shares. The measures, which were supported by Essex Police, mean landlords must now submit a planning application if they want to convert their property into a house of multiple occupancy (HMO).

Interim leader of Tendring Council, Paul Honeywood, said since the rule has been introduced not one application for a conversion has been introduced.

He also said that he had also met with the Probation Service who were working to send less ex-offenders to Clacton.

He added: “The problem is the Probation Service only has powers to supervise ex-offenders who have served 12 months or more. Prisoners who have served under a year in prison are free to go anywhere and the service has no power to track them.

“I’d like to see changes made so these offenders can also be tracked.

A spokesman for the Probation Service said from April 1st there would be additional powers in place to supervise “short-sentence prisoners” once they are released.

But district labour councillor Graham Caines, who represents the Clacton ward of Alton Park, said he ex-offenders often gravitated to Clacton “because they have nowhere else to go”.

He added; “In some cases they just have the £46 that is given to them, which means they have to commit crime just to get by. The problem is made worse by drugs or, in a lot of cases, mental health issues.

He added: “It seems we have learned very little about rehabilitation over the years. We need to be looking at the causes of repeat offending not the symptoms.”

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