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Transsexual wins prison transfer ruling

A transsexual prisoner serving life for manslaughter and attempted rape has won a High Court order that she be transferred to a women’s prison. A judge declared the continued detention of “A” – who cannot be named for legal reasons – in a male prison was a breach of her human rights and was unlawful and unreasonable.

The publicly-funded case of A, who was described to the court as “a woman trapped in a man’s body”, is expected to influence future similar cases.

Deputy Judge David Elvin QC, sitting at London’s High Court, said the refusal of Justice Secretary Jack Straw and the prison authorities to transfer the 27-year-old to a female prison meant she could not even begin progressing to gender reassignment surgery. To qualify, she would have to spend a period living “in role” as a woman “within a female prison”.

Ordering her transfer, the judge said: “I declare that her continued detention in a male prison is in breach of her rights under Article 8 (right to private and family life) under the European Convention on Human Rights”. The transfer should be effective in a few weeks.

Prisoner A was originally sentenced to five years for manslaughter of her male partner in 2001. An attempted rape of a female stranger five days after her release led to her then being jailed for life. Her tariff, the minimum period she had to serve before being considered for parole, expired in 2007.

Although born a man, Prisoner A began the process of gender reassignment while in prison.

She has been taking feminising hormones since early 2003 and had been referred to a gender identity clinic and received laser treatment to remove unwanted facial and genital hair. She no longer has to shave. She currently has a cell to herself and is allowed to wear women’s clothes and make-up.

In 2006, after this treatment, she obtained a gender recognition certificate which gave her legal recognition as a woman. She said in her evidence: “That felt like an important stage. No one can take my female status away from me.

“Until the day I die I will be a woman. For me it is simply a reflection of how it should have been from the start. ”

The judge said in his ruling that A “presents convincingly as a woman”.

A herself has accused the Prison Service of having “confused attitudes”, saying: “They will not consider me as a female until I have my penis removed... Yet they resist moving me to the female (prison) estate which would enable the surgery to be arranged.”

The prisoner said she felt “in limbo” and described an “increasing sense of urgency” to get the final stage of her gender reassignment completed.

The judge said the Ministry of Justice had recently produced a draft Prison Service Order to give guidelines on managing gender dysphoria cases, but final approval had been delayed until the result of A’s case was known.