Lib Dem leader calls for reform after trans woman sent to men’s prison
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has said he will raise the case in Parliament of a transgender woman who has been sent to a man’s prison.
It emerged today that 26 year old trans woman Tara Hudson has been sentenced to 12 weeks in the all-male Bristol Prison.
Current policy states that a Gender Recognition Certificate is required for trans prisoners to be placed in the correct prison for their gender, which Ms Hudson did not have despite living full-time as female for six years.
The Ministry of Justice has since declined to intervene, telling PinkNews that “there are strict rules in place” and that prisoners must be treated based on their “legally recognised gender”.
Speaking to PinkNews, Lib Dem leader Tim Farron slammed the MoJ for its response to the issue, given the dangers Ms Hudson might face.
He said: “The Liberal Democrats will raise this case in Parliament.
“There is a clear need for a policy change in this area. It looks like the Ministry of Justice needs be dragged kicking into the 21st century.
“As I understand it, Tara has lived all her adult life as a female. I worry potential risk of harm to her in a male prison which was deemed to have levels of violence ‘considerably higher than in similar prisons’ by the prisons inspectorate.”
Ms Hudson’s MP Ben Howlett – who by coincidence sits on the Women and Equalities Select Committee – also called for an “urgent review” earlier today.
He told PinkNews: “In this case, I am particularly concerned as on the face of it, it does appear that the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) Guidance does not appear to have been appropriately followed.
“Within NOMS there is a provision for transgender inmates, who do not have a Gender Recognition Certificate, to still be housed within the prison estate, under the gender they live if they are likely to meet the criteria required for a Gender Recognition Certificate.
“Someone like Tara, who has lived as a woman her whole adult life, and has undergone six years of gender reconstruction surgery, in my mind, clearly fits into this category.”
In order to receive a Gender Recognition Certificate at present, trans people must pay a £140 fee, and secure letters from medical professionals, evidence of having lived in their “chosen gender”, and approval from a gender recognition panel.
Due to the vast number of requirements, some trans people spend years living without legal recognition.
Earlier this month, Parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee heard about flaws in the current GRC process, at its third meeting of its transgender inquiry.
James Morton of the Scottish Transgender Alliance told Parliament : “You send in a big wad of documents and then they pick those apart and they send you back a ‘legalese’ document complaining that various parts aren’t in order and people get incredibly stressed out about it.”
“We have also had to support a number of trans people who’ve been really traumatised and humiliated by the process.”
Last month, the government received a parliamentary petition with over 30,000 signatures calling for a simple system of gender self-declaration, as is currently in operation on the Republic of Ireland.
However, the government insisted that “the state has a legitimate interest in ensuring that people who take on a new legal status can establish that they meet certain criteria.”
It claimed that “a person’s gender has important legal and social consequences”, adding: “The required statements and evidence are limited to what is necessary to establish that an applicant meets the criteria for recognition.”
Tara Hudson’s mother, Jackie Brooklyn, warned earlier: “We think it’s totally outrageous. I don’t think she will cope well at all. I just feel the men are going to go after her. It’s going to be humiliating.
“I just want to get my daughter into a safe, female environment where she belongs and will continue to fight the decision.”
Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall, said: “The decision to put Tara in an all-male prison, despite her identifying as female, is extremely concerning.
“Tara’s safety must come first, and this decision puts her at risk. The treatment of trans people in the prison service is one that needs careful review, and while it’s encouraging that the current Women and Equalities Select Committee inquiry is looking into this, something must be done now to ensure that Tara is safe and protected in her environment.!
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Sarah Bourke, an equality lawyer with eight years experience dealing with transgender legal issues, also told PinkNews the decision was concerning.
Ms Bourke told PinkNews: “Legally, the normal position is that prisoners are located in the prison appropriate to their legal gender. This means that a trans woman with a Gender Recognition Certificate should be located in a female prison but a trans woman without a GRC will normally be located in a male prison.
“However, the prison service’s policy makes it clear that if a trans woman without a GRC asks to be located in a female prison, the matter should be considered at a case conference and a decision made about the most appropriate location.
“In reaching a decision, a range of factors should be considered including whether the prisoner would meet the legal conditions for a GRC (not likely to be a problem in this case), the vulnerability of the prisoner, whether the prisoner poses a risk to others, the prisoner’s wishes, the views of any gender specialists working with the prisoner, whether the prisoner would need to be placed in segregation etc.”
Of fears that Ms Hudson could be kept in solitary confinement for her ‘own protection’, she said: “Segregation is not an appropriate way of protecting vulnerable prisoners given the impact that it can have on a person’s mental health.
“It is well recognised that all prisoners in the early days of their first sentence are particularly vulnerable and need support. The gender issues in this case further increase Tara’s vulnerability.”