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Probation Service has got to grips with failing Fleming House probation hostel in Maidstone exposed in Panorama documentary

Concerns about lax procedures at a hostel housing murderers and sex offenders are being addressed, says a probation boss.

Failures at Fleming House in Tonbridge Road, Maidstone, were first exposed by a BBC Panorama undercover reporter in a programme broadcast on May 27.

Fleming House Probation Hostel in Tonbridge Road, Maidstone
Fleming House Probation Hostel in Tonbridge Road, Maidstone

The reporter who worked at the hostel - now known as Approved Premises - for six weeks found a number of shortcomings.

There were shortages of equipment required to carry out mandatory drinks and drugs tests, room searches were not carried our regularly, and a log of inmates’ comings and goings was sometimes falsified.

During his time there, two of the convicted offenders absconded.

Following the damning exposé, more than 500 neighbours signed a petition calling for the hostel to be closed.

Cllr Chris Passmore is the county councillor for the area.

He said: “Last week, along with officers from Maidstone Borough Council and Kent County Council, I met with Manjinder Purewal, the probation director responsible for all Approved Premises in England, along with her colleagues responsible particularly for the management of Fleming House.

KCC Cllr Chris Passmore
KCC Cllr Chris Passmore

“We discussed the very significant issues raised by Panorama which had unsurprisingly caused very considerable concern within the local community.

“Ms Purewal made it very clear that the Probation Service is taking the issues highlighted very seriously and said that an independent internal investigation into Fleming House was currently under way.

“She acknowledged that the documentary exposed unacceptable practices that could have occurred at any Approved Premise and specifically highlighted the running out of tubes for alcohol testing and the incorrect signing-in of residents as being below the standards that the Probation Service should operate.

“She also added that measures are being reinforced to ensure effective room searches are carried out.”

The delay in installing tracking software on mobile phones of sex offenders, which was also highlighted in the documentary, was an issue for the police.

Cllr Passmore said: “Ms Purewal emphasised that all appropriate actions are being taken to ensure Fleming House will now operate to the highest standards with minimal risk to the local community and that appropriate additional management support is being provided to the Fleming House Team.

“Further meetings will be held at the local level to ensure Fleming House adheres to these high standards and does not present a significant risk to the local community.

“While some in the community may be disappointed that Fleming House is not being relocated, they can take reassurance that Manjinder Purewal, as a senior director in the Probation Service, and her team are facing up to the difficult issues highlighted in the Panorama documentary and are addressing them.”

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