Thompson House sex offenders hostel in north Belfast

RESIDENTS have reacted with fury at revelations that a hostel  for sex offenders is to re-open in north Belfast.

The hostel, which houses ex-prisoners, and sex offenders, will be open for business within a few weeks.

This is despite a long campaign to keep building, run by the Presbyteran Board of Social Witness, shut.

Thompson House on Antrim Road has undergone a £2m refurbishment, with the number of CCTV cameras rising from four to 84 and can house 19 offenders.

But local people don’t want it on their doorstep given the recent publicity around the disappearance in Wales of April Jones.

A 55-year-old grandfather told the Belfast Daily: “I don’t think there is any suitable place in the community for such hostels, never mind the Antrim Road.

“Look at all the schools around this area. Is this hostel not putting temptation in the way of these sex offenders?

“I have three grand children and if they were ever harmed by someone from that hostel, God help them.

“They still haven’t found that young April Jones in Wales, who is the same age as my grand son.

“I don’t what know these organisations are thinking about when they put these hostels in the community.

“They are certainly not thinking of me or my grand children. Ex-prisoners and sex offenders have more rights than me, my children and my grandchildren.

“The Antrim Road, or any road for that matter, is the wrong place for this hostel. It should stay closed for good.”

Pipe bomb device left at Thompson House last October

In October last year, a pipe bomb device was left at the hostel while renovation work was being carried out.

However, Linda Wray from the board said it was safer to have offenders where they could be monitored.

“Not all those residents will be sex offenders, they will have a range of offending behaviour,” she said.

“Most of those there will not be sex offenders, numbers will fluctuate but at any time there may only be two or three.”

She said that there would be a curfew for offenders and that they would not be allowed out when children were going to or coming from school.

The hostel is one of three dedicated offender hostels in Northern Ireland, all of which are based in Belfast.

It was set up 30 years ago by the Presbyterian Church and has been attacked in the past. Last year a pipe bomb was thrown at the hostel and it has also been splattered with paint.

Residents have expressed concern at having sex offenders living in a residential area.

Public protection arrangements co-ordinator Marcella Leonard, said they had listened to the concerns of residents, but that hostels were a “key resource” to provide safe, supervised accomodation from people who are leaving prison.

“Staff are fully qualified to work with individuals who pose a range of risk,” she said.

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