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Crime

Ministers urged to clarify laws after trans woman sent to male prison

Nick Duffy October 29, 2015

The case of a trans woman who was sent to a male prison has been raised in Parliament.

It emerged earlier this week that 26 year old trans woman Tara Hudson has been sentenced to 12 weeks in the all-male Bristol Prison after an assault conviction.

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.

After a petition in support of Ms Hudson gathered more than 50,000 signatures, Labour’s shadow equalities minister Cat Smith raised the issue today in the House of Commons.

Speaking in the Commons, the MP asked: “The minister may be aware of the case of 26 year old Tara Hudson, a trans woman who’s been sentenced to serve her prison sentence in a men’s prison.

“The good news is today I’ve heard she’s being moved to a women’s prison. Will the minister allow for a statement to be made to this house to clarify the procedures for sentencing trans prisoners?”

Leader of the House Chris Grayling responded: “I’m aware of the case – these are often very difficult issues. They typically are dealt with by the prison service or indeed by the judiciary, so decisions tend to be out of the remit of ministers.

“I know that my colleagues at the Ministry of Justice will always want citizens of this kind to be protected carefully and sensitively.”

Justice and Equalities Minister Caroline Dinenage was also asked about the case during yesterday’s Women and Equalities Select Committee, and pledged a number of reforms.

The Tory minister said: “As much as I would love to speak about the individual natures of this case, I could be committing a criminal offence if I do so – I can’t go into the individual details of [Tara’s] case.

“To talk more generally about decisions on trans prisoners: The first thing to say – the absolute fundamental underlying concern is the safety of that prisoner and indeed the safety of the wider prison population as well.

“What happens when a decision is made on prison location someone is going to go into is that their legal gender will be determined by the birth certificate or gender recognition certificate if there is one.

“If there isn’t, then an individual decision has to be taken on the basis of the location for that particular trans prisoner, and that has to be done on a case-by-case basis, taking into consideration the individual needs of that particular prisoner.

Once that decision has been made, it’s not game over – that case will be discussed on arrival in prison in a case conference, where all the different stakeholders in that case will be brought together

“Until that point, that person will be protected from the mainstream prison estate – they won’t just be left in the normal prison estate as a normal prisoner.”

She added: “We want to do more on this, which is why their is guidance that’s being updated to take into consideration everything we know and everything we’re learning about the trans population in our prisons. That new guidance is in draft form at the moment and will hopefully be issued before Christmas.

“In addition to that, there is a new equality information form we hope to introduce very shortly – that will actually happen at the very earliest stages that someone engages with the criminal justice system, so they can disclose that sort of information, which will very much help the judges when making decisions about where that person is going to go. Also it will help the prison governors and staff when they decide upon a location.

“The key message is that our guidance was originally issued in 2011, and a lot has changed – we’ve had many more trans prisoners through the doors of our prisons.

“We’re learning all the time, and the key things are their protection and that everyone must be seen as an individual. Their individual needs must be met within this protection sphere.”

More: Cat Smith, Conservative, Gay, Labour, LGBT, sexuality, Tara Hudson, Trans, Transgender

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