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Inspectors caught jail guard asleep

A prison guard monitoring an inmate at one of Britain's most secure jails was caught sleeping by inspectors, a report has said.

The officer at Belmarsh prison in south-east London appeared to be asleep while supposedly supervising a visit for an unnamed prisoner in the jail's high security unit in April, the inspectors said.

The high-security jail houses "some of the most high-risk and high-profile prisoners in the system", including terrorists and killers.

The report of the full unannounced inspection in April read: "During the inspection, an officer supervising a visit for a prisoner in the unit appeared asleep.

"As this was wholly inappropriate, we referred the matter to the management team for action."

The inspectors also found that while the prison was improving, there was still much work to do.

Nick Hardwick, the chief inspector of prisons, added: "Belmarsh is among the most complex prisons in England and Wales, juxtaposing the management of a transient population of ordinary, lower-risk prisoners presenting all the needs faced by any local prison, with some of the most high-risk and high-profile prisoners in the system.

"Achieving a balance in working with the very different risks and needs is a huge challenge, with which the prison continues to struggle."

But he added there have been "a number of commendable improvements, particularly in safety, purposeful activity and resettlement".

Michael Spurr, chief executive of the National Offender Management Service (Noms), admitted that "maintaining the right balance between security, which is essential in a high security prison, and providing effective rehabilitative opportunities is challenging".

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