A transgender woman has been jailed in a man’s prison in New Zealand after pleading guilty to stealing a dead baby’s identity to forge passport documents and gain false benefits.

A Christchurch District Court sentenced Lelilani Sialapae to 12 months despite calls from her lawyers to defer the sentence until she had completed a sex change process.

Her lawyer, Leuatea Iosefa, claimed Ms Sialapae, 27, is in the “pre operative stage” and said her attempts to gain a passport were to “avoid embarrassment”

Mr Iosefa acknowledged his clients actions were wrong but attributed her actions and previous criminal history to a “life ravaged by drug addiction, sex abuse and prostitution.”

Judge Moran said her actions were “determined and premeditated” criminal activity

He said she could apply for home detention, but said the “difficulty” of placing her in a male prison was “not enough” for him to defer sentencing.