Karen White, a convicted sex offender who is yet to undergo gender reassignment surgery, was moved to a women’s prison before sexually assaulting two female inmates
UK prisons could stop transgender inmates serving their sentences in women’s prisons, as the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) announced it plans to consider revisions to current policy.
The review comes amid the high-profile case of Karen White, a convicted sex offender who is yet to undergo gender reassignment surgery, who was placed in women’s prison HMP New Hall after telling authorities he identified as a woman.
He subsequently sexually assaulted two female prisoners.
The 52-year-old, who was previously convicted in 2001 for indecent assault and gross indecency with a child, was ordered at the end of last year to serve a life sentence for the jail sex attacks and two rapes carried out when he was still a man.
In a question asked about the case in parliament earlier this week, justice minister Ed Argar, said the matter was being reviewed and that ‘new guidelines’ on the issue would be announced soon.
He said: ‘We take the Karen White case very seriously. New guidelines will be published shortly, to ensure that [the policy] continues to strike the right balance between ensuring that all female prisoners are kept safe [and] that transgender prisoners have their rights respected.’
Speaking to The Times, Nicola Williams of campaign group Fair Play for Women, said on the matter: ‘This has a significance beyond prisons – it’s an admission that allowing males to self-identify as women and letting them into women’s space is dangerous.’
White, who was formerly known as Stephen Wood, is seen here pictured in 2016 prior to his arrest, when he was known to cross-dress, but had not yet begun gender reassignment
In a statement from the Ministry of Justice, a spokesperson said: ‘The management of transgender prisoners, who all have different circumstances and pose very different levels of risk, is a highly sensitive issue which poses unique and complex challenges.
‘We are carefully reviewing our policy in this area so that it strikes the right balance between protecting transgender prisoners and their rights, and the safety and wellbeing of all prisoners, including some extremely vulnerable women.
‘We saw in the Karen White case the severe consequences of getting this balance wrong, and as a result of that case we made the difficult decision to move a small number of transgender women back into the male estate where the risk they pose can be more safely managed.
‘Our review is ongoing and no final decisions have been made. The safety of all prisoners is our absolute priority and we are clear that all offenders must be managed sensitively and in line with the law.’
Under current MoJ policy, transgender prisoners remanded into custody should be ‘located according to their legally-recognised gender unless there are exceptional circumstances’.
Murderer Paris Green was moved from Cornton Vale women’s jail amid reports she was having sex with female prisoners
The MoJ statement added: ‘Following the Karen White case, we carried out a rapid assessment that looked into the location of all transgender offenders in the prison estate.
‘As a result of this, a small number of prisoners were relocated to male prisons.’
In another case, transgender prisoner Paris Green, who was ordered to serve a minimum of 18 years in prison for murder, began her sentence at Cornton Vale women’s jail in Stirling, but was moved after reports she was having sex with female prisoners in her cell.
Green, who was born Peter Laing, is currently in a women’s wing at HMP Edinburgh and is set to undergo gender reassignment surgery on the NHS.
Meanwhile in 2017, double rapist, who had a £10,000 sex change operation behind bars, was put in segregation at a women-only prison after making unwanted sexual advances on inmates.
The incident occurred after Martin Ponting, 50, a father-of-three, who became Jessica Winfield after being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1995, was moved from male-only HMP Whitemoor, in Cambridgeshire, to HMP Bronzefield in Surrey, Europe’s largest female prison.
The Ministry of Justice says there are now 139 transgender prisoners in England and Wales, double the number in 2016.
Last year, it was revealed that almost half of transgender inmates had been convicted of sexual offences.