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Lib Dem leader urges Michael Gove to step in to help trans woman in male prison

Nick Duffy October 30, 2015

PinkNews Exclusive
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has urged Justice Secretary Michael Gove to intervene in the case of a transgender woman who has been sent to a man’s prison.

It emerged this week 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.

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, who has spoken out on the issue, has today written to Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove, to urge him to help.

In a letter to the Secretary of State seen by PinkNews, he wrote:

Dear Michael,

No doubt you will be aware of Tara Hudson, a transgender woman who has recently been sentenced to serve 12 weeks in a male prison, despite the fact that she has lived as a woman for the greater part of her life and has been medically declared a woman by her doctor.

Her placement in an all-male prison is likely to cause a great deal of distress for Tara and require close management by prison staff to mitigate any risks.

My understanding is that her location on the estate was determined by the fact that she did not have a Gender Recognition Certificate – the means by which to legally change your gender. However, from the Detention Services Order 11/2012: Care and Management of Transsexual Detainee it states, under 4.2, that:

“Where there are issues to be resolved, such as a detainee presenting in a gender opposite to the one that would be recognised under UK law, a discussion should take place promptly to consider the most appropriate location and involve all or some of the following, depending on the circumstances: AD DEPMU (or deputy), the Immigration Enforcement Delivery Manager, IRC Manager (or deputy) and IRC healthcare, and a multi-disciplinary risk assessment should be undertaken to determine how best to manage a transsexual detainee’s location.”

Have these discussions taken place? Will you intervene to ensure that Tara is placed in the most appropriate location?

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience and your action on this matter which has caused a great deal of distress and has highlighted the long way we still have to go to ensure full equality.

Yours sincerely,

The leader has also submitted a number of Parliamentary questions:

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what plans does he have to review the Care and management of transsexual prisoners’ guidance following the case of Tara Hudson

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he is taking to ensure that trans individuals are placed in the appropriate prisons for their acquired gender.

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what plans he has to review the fee structure for the Gender Recognition Certificate to ensure that it is not bureaucratically burdensome or costly

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what plans he has to review the application criteria for the Gender Recognition Certificate to remove the requirement for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria

The Ministry of Justice repeatedly declined to intervene, telling PinkNews that “there are strict rules in place” and that prisoners must be treated based on their “legally recognised gender”.

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.

Labour’s shadow equalities minister Cat Smith raised the issue yesterday 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.

“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: justice, LGBT, Lib Dem, liberal democrat, Liberal Democrats, Michael Gove, prison, sexuality, Tara Hudson, tim farron, Trans, Transgender

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