A gender-critical campaigner has said it was “inevitable” that convicted sex offender Karen White was able to sexually assault women after being moved to a women’s prison.
White, who was born Stephen Wood, was incarcerated in HMP New Hall, a women’s prison, after he began identifying as a woman last August.
Between September and October last year, he attacked two women, and admitted to officers to having a sexual interest in children.
The Prison Service has apologised for “mistakes” made in the case.
White was sentenced to life with a minimum of nine-and-a-half years on Thursday, and is being held in a men’s prison.
The court heard White may have used a transgender persona “to put herself in contact with vulnerable persons”.
‘A man in drag’
Karen White, who was sentenced to life for sexually assaulting two women and raping two others
Discussing the case with Fair Play for Women spokeswoman Dr Nicola Williams, who campaigns for the preservation of spaces segregated by biological sex, Julia Hartley-Brewer called White “a man in drag” and sad the case was “extraordinary”.
“I don’t believe for a moment he was trans, he came up with this cunning wheeze that he’d fool prison governors and officers so he’d get transferred to a women’s prison, saying he was too vulnerable to be kept in a women’s prison, and that was another opportunity to commit sexual assault on vulnerable women,” Hartley-Brewer said.
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“You say this is extraordinary that a rapist was allowed into a female prison, but it was inevitable,” said Dr Williams.
“Prison policy allows this to happen. It’s inevitable that at some point a rapist will attack women in prison. Common sense has been thrown out the window here.”
The government is currently consulting on a reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, with the public consultation ending on October 19.
If the Act is changed, it may make it easier for transgender people to legally change their gender without having to go through a lengthy process obtaining documentation and getting medical approval.
Campaigners like Dr Williams argue that such changes would put women at risk by creating a system in which individuals who may seek to harm women would find it easier to access sex-segregated spaces.
‘Sex segregation is a safeguarding issue’
Karen White, who was born Stephen Wood. Image: PA
“This law just allows transvestites to say they’re female,” Dr Williams continued.
“All someone has to do is put a wig on, change their clothes, change their name… that’s how it is already.
“If the law changes so that person can also get a female birth certificate on demand, no surgery necessary, it would have so many ramifications in society.
“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.
“Sex segregation is a safeguarding issue. It’s common sense, in a prison we don’t put males in women’s prisons.”
Williams said sex and gender must be treated as different things.
“A group called Gendered Intelligence that advocates for transgender policies, that was the group that advised the prison service and helped them rewrite the policy that allowed this rapist in,” she said.
“This is the same group that advises Girl Guides [Girlguiding as they’re officially known], that now allows boys who say they’re girls into tents with girls.
“We need to speak about sex now, and say gender is one thing, but sex is something else.”