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Call for Fleming House probation hostel in Maidstone to be closed following damning Panorama investigation

Hundreds of people have signed a petition calling for a probation hostel to be closed following a damning Panorama exposé.

Peter Smith started the campaign after the BBC documentary – which aired last month – highlighted safety concerns at Fleming House in Maidstone town centre.

Fleming House Probation Hostel in Tonbridge Road, Maidstone, is under fire once again
Fleming House Probation Hostel in Tonbridge Road, Maidstone, is under fire once again

They included the alleged absconding of two convicted criminals from the Tonbridge Road hostel, problems with equipment used to monitor sex offenders’ mobile phone usage, and failure by staff to properly carry out regular drink and drug testing.

Mr Smith said: “We are allowing dangerous murderers, rapists, and paedophiles to live in our community, putting residents at risk.

“This facility has proven ineffective and unsafe for both its inhabitants and our neighborhood. For the safety of Maidstone’s families and children, we must take action now and close it down.”

Comments from the 555 people signing the petition so far included one from Jain Malet, who said: “This probation hostel is failing to keep the public safe. There have been so many offences from criminals living there.”

Virgina Ross wrote: “I live close by, and this report was terrifying.”

Rachel Hicks added: “This type of facility should not be in a busy town centre, surrounded by schools and nurseries, even if the place were being supervised properly.”

The failings were revealed by an investigative reporter who worked undercover at the hostel for six weeks.

Fleming House has 31 beds and is used for the rehabilitation of high-risk offenders, such as murderers, paedophiles and rapists.

Offenders typically stay there for about three months after coming out of prison.

It is not the first time concerns have been raised about the hostel.

Jason Orwin from Maidstone
Jason Orwin from Maidstone

In 2021, Fleming House resident Lance Colston attacked and killed Jason Orwin, a 55-year-old neighbour.

Also in 2021, a serial sex offender, who was staying there, was jailed for trying to groom a 13-year-old girl for sex.

The previous September, sex offender Christopher Hatcher was living at the hostel when he attacked a teenage girl after following her home from the pub.

He was returned to jail for seven years.

Cllr Chris Passmore
Cllr Chris Passmore

Residents at the hostel are supposed to comply with their licence conditions which are set on their release from prison.

A common requirement is that they sign in at regular times at the hostel, but the BBC alleged that on at least one occasion, a staff member falsified the record, rather than take action over a missed sign-in.

County councillor Chris Passmore (Lib Dem) has written to the probation service demanding action, saying it posed an “unacceptable” risk.

A Probation Service spokesperson said: “Several of the claims in this documentary are extremely difficult to verify and our records show that room searches and substance misuse testing were carried out routinely and in line with national guidance.

“But we understand the concerns of the local community which is why as part of ongoing investigations into the issues raised we have arranged to meet local safety groups.”

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