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Staff at UK sex offender jail must do more to "halt grooming"

Rye Hill prison
Rye Hill prison

Staff at a privately-run jail housing sex offenders are unaware of the risks of prisoners grooming younger inmates for sex, inspectors have found.

A report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons (HMIP) of an unannounced inspection of Rye Hill prison, Warwickshire, found there was no strategy for making sure wardens could identify the risk of younger inmates being targeted.

The category B jail, which is run by G4S, houses more than 600 adult sex offenders, many jailed for serious crimes, after a change in role last year.

HMIP said the prison was "performing very well", with low levels of violence, cells in good condition and strong offender management.

But inspectors highlighted weaknesses in inmates' healthcare and staff shortages, as well as the lack of awareness of grooming risks.

The report said: "Prison staff were generally aware of the particular risks associated with the sex offender population but there was no strategic approach to ensuring that all staff were aware of the potential for prisoner-on-prisoner sexual grooming and targeting, especially in relation to some of the younger prisoners held at the prison."

"The risks of prisoner-on-prisoner sexual grooming should be included in the violence reduction strategy and processes should be implemented to monitor potential perpetrators and victims.

"Health care was the weakest area of the prison. Services had not sufficiently adapted to meet the needs of the new population.

"There were staff shortages and the available staff were not deployed efficiently. There were long waiting times for most clinics. Some aspects of medicine administration were unsafe and complaints about health care were not handled appropriately."

HMIP chief inspector Nick Hardwick said: "This was a positive inspection and HMP Rye Hill has some real strengths. Its purposeful activities, and offender management, both vital for this population, are better than we normally see and there is much that other prisons can learn from this.

"Nevertheless, in some other areas, particularly health care, the prison was not meeting the needs of its population and these areas now needed to be brought up to the same standards as the rest of the prison."

The prison's governor Richard Stedman told BBC News: "We now have a population that is much more sophisticated and able to manipulate and condition because, let's be honest, that's how they've been able to commit a lot of their offences.

"It would be really naive to think those behaviours disappear when they come into custody. They don't have access to children so they will often focus their behaviour on staff and their peers.

"I would recognise that we've had a lot of learning to do when an establishment changes in such a short period of time. It takes time to learn about those behaviours, so we're getting ever better."