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Nolan's Hydebank documentary doesn't discount seriousness of crimes, says BBC after father's victim plea

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Stephen Nolan

Stephen Nolan

Stephen Nolan

The BBC said Stephen Nolan's hard-hitting new series on life behind bars for young offenders does not discount the seriousness of their crimes and raises important matters of public interest.

It comes after a father whose daughter was a victim of crime appealed directly to the presenter to air the views of those that suffered at the hands of the prisoners.

Mr Nolan admitted he met cold and emotionless prisoners - including one who threatened him - but when he heard the background story of some inmates he wanted to reach out and hug them.

"And then when I found out their crime... I was repulsed. That's the conflict. I'd been broken if I had been brought up like some of them," he told his listeners.

Viewers have praised the documentary for its "great insight" into prison life in Northern Ireland.

The three-part series Nolan: Inside Hydebank takes a look at life in the Northern Ireland prison which houses around 100 young male offenders and crime suspects.

Episode two, which aired on Tuesday night, saw the broadcaster meet inmates and uncover stories of abuse and fractured home lives.

He spoke to one young man who detailed his story of suffering sexual abuse at the age of seven.

On BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan programme on Wednesday, April 29, caller Gavin from Lambeg asked the Mr Nolan would he give victims the same attention.

"I would like on the behalf of victims to ask you whether you will do the same time duration over three nights a programme interviewing the victims and put that out as the other side of the story.

"My daughter was a victim, she is working on the frontline and training to be a nurse," he said.

"All these criminals, what they all have in common is that they say they're not guilty. They're afraid to admit that they're guilty. Behind the scenes, they're big lads.

"They're only sorry for their actions because they were caught," he said.

Stephen Nolan said of his experience in Hydebank that he met some "cold, emotionless young men" in the prison.

But he said there was some "lonely and vulnerable young men".

"And when I talked to some of them in their cell on their own, that heartbreaking story of how they didn't have any family support, they didn't have an education... I wanted to hug some of them."

He said the victim's side of the story was important and offered to speak to caller Gavin after his show to explore options.

Former Ulster Unionist councillor John Scott also spoke on the programme and said he has previously worked with young people in prisons.

"Everyone needs a second chance," he said.

He said the system had to be changed so that young men aren't released without any support when their prison sentence comes to an end.

"There are a lot of young people in there who have families and have back up, there are other young people who have no back up, there should be back up for them and it will make it a safer society," he said.

A spokesperson for BBC Northern Ireland said: "This series is about the experiences of young offenders. It doesn’t discount the seriousness of the offences that some of them have committed, or their effect on victims.

"We think that the programmes have raised important issues of public interest and debate – all of which we will continue to explore on our airwaves."

The final programme in the series airs on BBC 1 at 10.45pm on Wednesday, April 29.

Belfast Telegraph