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We pay €85k to find perverts new homes

THE Government handed over more than €85,000 to a programme to rehouse released sex offenders -- including serial rapist Michael Murray -- without the knowledge of the communities they were placed in.

And taxpayers footed a massive €10.6m bill in 2009 for "managing" a variety of offenders in the community.

The €85,789 was given by the Department of Justice to the New Directions Project -- the same group that was responsible for helping Murray secure private rented accommodation in a city apartment complex.

The funding was made through the Probation Service to New Directions for the accommodation of a "small cohort" of high-risk, high profile ex-cons, including sex offenders.

The accommodation of sex offenders within communities has sparked huge controversy.

In January, violent offender Brian Shevlin was set to be rehoused beside a creche and yards from a school in Ratoath, Co Meath -- but the move was cancelled after neighbours reacted furiously.

And last month, Murray was discovered living in an €800-per-month apartment in Inchicore while working as a gardener at St Mary's Hospital in the Phoenix Park.

The Herald learned New Directions set him up in half-way accommodation for months before providing a reference for his apartment.

He subsequently left the apartment "of his own accord" and quit his job. Murray is now back living at the accommodation originally provided by the Probation Service.

The Department of Justice said it would not comment on individual cases but revealed overall funding figures for offender management.

New Directions was set up last year. Asked how many offenders it managed, a spokesman would only say the number was "very small".

A Department of Justice spokesman said: "The project supports a newly developed joint management approach to high-risk sex offenders between An Garda Siochana and the Probation Service.

"The aim is to secure accommodation for a small cohort of high risk/high-profile ex-offenders leaving custody."

The Probation Service provided €10.6m in funding to around 50 voluntary bodies to "assist with the management of offenders in the community".

These projects provide services to offenders, including training and education, accommodation and drug and alcohol-abuse treatment.

The spokesman added that the Probation Service worked with partner services to minimise the risk of re-offending and harm to the community.

Asked if it was policy for offenders' backgrounds to be disclosed to prospective landlords, the spokesman said: "This is an issue to be addressed in the context of the National Homeless Strategy and also by the individual service providers."