A prisoner who says she was sexually assaulted in jail is taking the Ministry of Justice to the High Court over its policy of placing trans women in women’s prisons.
FDJ, a female prisoner who cannot be named, claims she was sexually assaulted in 2017 by a trans woman with a gender recognition certificate (GRC).
Her lawyers argue the MoJ’s policy of allocating trans inmates to prisons based on their declared gender identity unlawfully discriminates against women. FDJ is also challenging separate measures in relation to a ‘high-risk trans prisoner unit’ at HMP Downview in Surrey, which was created in March 2019.
The MoJ argues that both policies pursue legitimate aims, including ‘facilitating the rights of transgender people to live in and as their acquired gender (and) protecting transgender people’s mental and physical health’.
The case shines a legal spotlight on a hugely divisive issue, which has pitted trans rights campaigners against some feminists.
It was due to be heard in October, but was adjourned after the MoJ disclosed potentially important documents less than an hour before the hearing.
Lord Justice Holroyde and Mr Justice Swift will now hear FDJ’s claim at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on Tuesday and Wednesday.
At a brief hearing in October, her lawyers claimed the policy ‘exposes female prisoners to a risk of sexual assault that would not (otherwise) arise’.
Karon Monaghan QC, representing FDJ, said the policy was put in place despite ‘the extraordinary vulnerability of female prisoners and the prevalence of a history of abuse and gendered violence’.
Ms Monaghan told the court FDJ was sexually assaulted by a trans woman prisoner with a GRC who had convictions for ‘serious sexual offences against women’ and was being housed in the general population of a women’s prison.
She also claimed that MoJ statistics suggested that trans prisoners were ‘five times more likely to carry out sex attacks on inmates in women’s jails than other prisoners are’.
But Sarah Hannett, representing the MoJ, said the claim was based on ‘a tiny data sample of seven sexual assaults over … a four-year period’, from which it was ‘impossible to draw any meaningful conclusion’.
Ms Hannett also said an individual’s ‘offending history’ was considered when deciding where to allocate a transgender prisoner and that the risk of harm they may present to other prisoners was a ‘fundamental consideration’.
The two-day remote hearing was expected to begin at 10.30am on Tuesday morning.
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