‘We seem to be getting some momentum’ – Petition launched to stop Suffolk prison housing sex offenders

Hollesley Bay Colony

Hollesley Bay Colony - Credit: Archant

A petition has been launched to prevent a Suffolk open prison from housing sex offenders amid uproar from the community.

The Prison Service recently confirmed Hollesley Bay was among several open prisons that would be used to accommodate the growing number of sex offenders in the criminal justice system.

Despite assurances offenders would be “suitably risk assessed”, the proposals prompted a major backlash. People living in the area raised concerns about the number of prisoners absconding and called for more consultation. And following the latest prisoner absconder on Friday, villagers escalated their campaign by lodging a Government petition.

Hollesley resident Joel Stone said: “We seem to be getting some momentum. I think the whole idea of housing sex offenders at Hollesley is ridiculous.

“There’s a primary school within a few minutes’ walk from the prison, there’s also the Suffolk Punch Trust, which people like to visit with their children and there’s a public road going through the grounds.

“People are quite angry about it, especially as it seems to have been brought in without consultation.

“They are used to having prisoners around – but these are not the sorts of prisoners you want to be near a primary school.”

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Mr Stone said the Government had initially rejected the petition – but accepted it after being told it related to a proposed change to the existing admissions criteria. He said the petition would be available online within days.

The announcement had already drawn criticism from Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore, who feared further absconding could make more work for Suffolk Constabulary.

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey has also raised concerns with the prisons minister.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: “Under this Government more sex offenders are being convicted and going to prison, and spending longer there. Sex offenders are already held successfully at other open prisons but their growing number means we need more of our open prisons to accommodate them, including HMP Hollesley Bay. A wider range of rehabilitation options for these men as they prepare to re-enter society is the best way of minimising the risk to the public.”

Hollesley Parish Council is organising a public meeting to discuss the proposals with key figures at a date yet to be agreed.