Closed bail hostels 'will mean misery'

PROBATION officers claim the closure of 11 bail hostels today will lead to hundreds more people being remanded in custody at a time of growing concern over prison overcrowding.

The hostels provide places for 270 and the closures announced by the Home Office represent a 10 per cent cut in overall provision.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said the remand population in prisons had already risen by nearly one-third over the last 12 months.

'Bail hostels provide an important safety valve for the penal system and undoubtedly relieve the pressure on the prison estate. The closures will result in many more expensive remands into custody and more misery for defendants - it makes no economic or practical sense.'

He said 135 MPs had signed an Early Day Motion urging Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, to review the closure decision, which was also opposed by magistrates and lawyers.

But the Home Office argued that throughout 1993 hostels were only about two-thirds full, with about 900 spare beds at any time.

The 11 hostels were selected because of their cost, condition, facilities and use by the courts.

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