Former Met Police deputy assistant commissioner and peer Brian Paddick has said that the conversation around the sentencing of Karen White is seeing transgender people “unfairly labelled as sex offenders”.
“It’s the same kind of casual prejudice that says young black men are all criminals,” he told talkRADIO.
White, who was born Stephen Wood but began identifying as a woman last year, was held on remand in women’s prison HMP New Hall, where he sexually assaulted two women.
He had previously raped two others and was sentenced to life with a minimum of nine-and-a-half years on Thursday.
Campaigners who are against transgender people who retain the genitalia they were born with using sex-segregated spaces for the gender they identify with say that the policy that allowed White to be held in a women’s prison could mean men who pose a threat to women will find it easier to access sex-segregated spaces.
The government is currently holding a consultation on updating the Gender Recognition Act to make it easier for transgender people to legally change their gender, with the campaigners also express concern about.
Dr Nicola Williams of the group Fair Play for Women told Julia Hartley-Brewer that “this law just allows transvestites to say they’re female” and added: “We’re looking at prisons, but all across society, men who say they’re women are becoming legally female because of that, will have major safety implications for females.”
'Nobody asked for a birth certificate to enter a toilet'
“The Gender Recognition Act consultation is a separate issue [to Karen White] - it is a consultation on making it easier for transgender people to get a birth certificate in their chosen gender,” Paddick said. He added that people who pose a threat to women will seek out ways of harming them anyway, even while places like toilets are segregated by sex.
“People are saying that men who want to harm women may do this to access women’s spaces, but if predatory men want to enter those spaces to harm women they do that anyway,” he said.
“Nobody is asked for a birth certificate when they enter a sex-segregated toilet.”
Paddick tweeted on Thursday - shortly before the sentencing of White had been announced - that “trans women are not men and are not responsible for these issues - these are issues that affect them too”.
He also said he’d met with campaign groups expressing concern about the consultation, and that opinion was split even in those groups.
“There are differences of opinion even within Woman’s Place - some women in the meeting I attended said they didn’t want transgender people in women’s changing rooms, but the transgender woman in the meeting said she did use women’s changing rooms,” he said.
During the conversation on Twitter, he pointed out that anyone acting inappropriately in a sex-segregated space could still be challenged even if changes were made to the Gender Recognition Act.
In the case of criminals who do pose a threat to women, he said “a thorough risk assessment for each case”.
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Transgender people, he said, felt they were being “labelled” as sex offenders as a result of the discourse around the Gender Recognition Act consultation.
“There is a sense of unification among transgender people that they’re all being unfairly labelled as sex offenders. It’s the same kind of casual prejudice that says young black men are all criminals,” he said.
The Ministry of Justice has said there is no review planned into the current policies around the handling of transgender prisoners.