Farron: Ministry of Justice need to be “dragged into 21st century” over Tara Hudson

Tim Farron has intervened in the case of Tara Hudson, the transgender woman from Bath who has been sent to serve a 12 week prison sentence at an all male prison because, basically, of some paperwork. She’s never applied for a Gender Recognition Certificate, but she has lived as a woman for all of her adult life.

Tim expressed his fears for Tara’s safety to Pink News. He said:

The Liberal Democrats will raise this case in Parliament.

There is a clear need for a policy change in this area. It looks like the Ministry of Justice needs be dragged kicking into the 21st century.

As I understand it, Tara has lived all her adult life as a female. I worry potential risk of harm to her in a male prison which was deemed to have levels of violence ‘considerably higher than in similar prisons’ by the prisons inspectorate.

It just beggars belief that the Ministry of Justice or anyone else dealing with Tara could even contemplate sending her to a male prison. It’s cruel, it’s inhumane and it’s not what our justice system is for. It would cause her physical and mental harm as well as put her safety at risk. Let’s hope that some common sense prevails, and quickly.

Another point that should be made is whether she should have been sent to prison at all. When Ken Clarke was Justice Secretary, he supported the Liberal Democrat position that these short sentences were counter-productive.

Should you agree with Tim, there is a petition calling for her to serve her sentence in a women’s prison that you may wish to sign.

Update: Andrew Page has also written about this for Kaleidoscot. He has spoken to James Morton of the Scottish Transgender Alliance who explains why the process of applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate can simply be too stressful for people. It’s worth pointing out that it costs £140, which can often be unaffordable.

Update #2: Good news – common sense may be prevailing and Tara may be moved to a women’s prison as Pink News reports. She is appealing her sentence tomorrow as well.

And a final thought – one of the best moments of Conference for me was when Party President Sal Brinton took time out of her busy schedule to speak in the motion on transgender and intersex rights. She spoke about the need to tackle transphobic bullying in schools and said:

The way the medical community treats both trans and intersex people betrays a medical community that has not learned from the decades it spent trying to “normalise” lesbian, gay and bisexual people. It has to stop, and it has to stop now.

If you are a person who is struggling with your gender identity, seeing senior politicians speak up for people like you does wonders for your sense of worth and confidence, so well done to Tim, Sal and all other senior Lib Dems who do this.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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42 Comments

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Oct '15 - 9:09am

    I don’t think it’s outrageous. I’m not getting into a debate about it, because I think some would overreact, so whilst I think trans women are women, I don’t think they should be treated exactly the same as other women 100% of the time.

  • This is frankly ridiculous.
    On another point what is the point of sending someone to prison for 12 weeks? No realistic rehabilitation work can be done. It costs the tax payer £10k and leads to an individual losing their job meaning when they come out they will end up on being supported by the tax payer. When we were in coalition we should have stripped magistrates from having the power to lock people up.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 29th Oct '15 - 9:22am

    Eddie, can you not understand the risk to this woman’s physical and mental health in this environment. Can you understand how the other prisoners would treat her? The likelihood is that she would be completely isolated for her own safety and that’s not a good way to treat people either, particularly when they are have a history of mental ill health.

    How would you like it if someone decided that your gender identity didn’t matter, and that you were going to be treated as a woman? I’m sure you would feel pretty disrespected and violated, even.

  • Eddie Sammon 29th Oct '15 - 9:35am

    Alright Caron, I’ve signed the petition now. I just think we need to be weary that a lot of people are not going to be used to discussing or even thinking about these issues, so maybe we need to promote these rights in a more positive way.

    Regards

  • I wonder if she will be better treated in a woman’s prison…..I worked in a company where I almost had a ‘shop floor’ riot over a ‘woman’ using the ‘Ladies’….I have never experienced such angry feelings even when dealing with irate union officials…. The men, in comparison, were far more tolerant and not one objected if she wanted to use the ‘Gents’…However, she was a woman and it was only settled by her having a ‘top floor’ toilet for her use ….

  • nigel hunter 29th Oct '15 - 10:03am

    Women can be a ‘dangerous species’ when it comes to emotions For just 12 weeks why not put her under house arrest or tag her with a daily report to the police station. After a year her offence could be passed as ‘spent’

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 29th Oct '15 - 10:11am

    @nigel hunter:

    “Women can be a ‘dangerous species’ when it comes to emotions”

    An appallingly sexist generalisation if ever there was one.

  • Helen Dudden 29th Oct '15 - 11:08am

    I dont think it is sexist. I put my all effort and emotions, into a problem with one of my grandchildren. I fought for the right to have contact, and make changes to international law.

    In the wild, the female will fight to protect her young, that fact.

  • Richard Underhill 29th Oct '15 - 11:28am

    During the Blair government there were all-day seminars covering a wide variety of issues, although attendance was voluntary or selective. Communication officers passed on the message in emails and in short talks.
    Nigel Hunter: The species is humankind. The cuts to police budgets that the Chancellor and the Home Secretary are forcing through are causing well-publicised job losses and cries of pain from budget-holders. If you are in England or Wales get ready for the Police and Criminal Commissioner elelctions in May 2016, or Mayoral in Greater London.

  • I think it’s extremely foolish for anybody to be signing the petition referred to when they can’t actually know the full details of the case. While it certainly looks like the prison authorities may have made a mistake here, what people should be demanding is that the case is looked at again by the people best qualified to do so. These kinds of decisions are extremely difficult and I’m sure most of the people who make them try to do their best for the prisoners concerned (I say this with some degree of personal knowledge as I do a lot of work within the justice sector). Letting these decisions be made by on-line mob rule would be the surest way I can think of of increasing the danger to vulnerable people within the prison system.

    Update #2: Good news – common sense has prevailed and Tara is to be moved to a women’s prison as Pink News reports.

    Er, that’s not what Pink News are reporting at all. What they are saying is that the case will be reconsidered within the existing rules, which already allow transgender prisoners to be housed in establishments appropriate to their self-identified gender, regardless of whether they have a GRC or not. The only reason this comes as a surprise to the Pink News reporter is because he hasn’t done his research properly (and unfortunately, neither has Tim Farron). All he actually had to do was take a quick look at the Pink News archives, since PN has covered the rules in some detail in the past, and a lot more accurately than they’re doing now).

    Forget about the lack of GRC – that should not be the key factor here, as Hudson’s MP himself pointed out to Pink News yesterday. The rules as they exist are actually perfectly reasonable and strike a decent enough balance between protection of transgender prisoners, protection of other prisoners, and preventing abuse of the system. Whether or not a mistake has been made in relation to Tara Hudson (and we don’t know that for sure yet), it’s wrong to conclude that the whole system is treating transgender people unfairly.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 29th Oct '15 - 1:15pm

    @Stuart : Ok, but it’s still a step forward. I misread that headline and thought she was going to be moved. But at least it’s a step in the right direction.

    In relation to your wider point, I’m glad that there are people who are willing to stand up for the rights of others. It’s not mob rule, it’s about righting an obvious injustice and getting the matter sorted quickly. This woman has been wrongly treated by the state and if people didn’t make a fuss about it, nothing would change.

    Do you think that we should just walk on by and let people be treated badly by powerful organisations and the state? If so, I disagree with you. You don’t have to make a particularly sophisticated judgement in this case to realise that it is just plain wrong to put a woman in a man’s prison.

  • Caron Lindsay 29th Oct ’15 – 10:11am…@nigel hunter:“Women can be a ‘dangerous species’ when it comes to emotions”………An appallingly sexist generalisation if ever there was one……………….

    Caron, you mean, as opposed to, “We should damn well see this and see what we were responsible for as a gender!”, by LDV, on the subject of the Suffragettes film?

  • In fairness to Caron, it appears there were some inaccurate reports doing the rounds earlier stating that Hudson would definitely be moved, when in fact (as I mention above) there is only going to be a review.

    If any institution needs to be moving in to the 21st century here, it’s journalism – the reporting of this case has been dire.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 29th Oct '15 - 1:28pm

    No, @Expatts, one is a completely unsubstantiated sexist comment aimed at all women, the second is, actually, a statement of fact about the men who constructed society according to their rules.

  • @Caron
    I am also glad that there are people willing to stand up for the rights of others. But when this is done from a position of not having the facts right, the end result can sometimes be an increase in harm, not to mention an unfair portrayal of the justice system and the people who are working within it.

  • “Women can be a ‘dangerous species’ when it comes to emotions” do you get good wifi reception in your cave or do you have to hit the router with your club 🙂

  • Stephen Hesketh 29th Oct '15 - 3:22pm

    Clearly not just the Ministry of Justice that needs be dragged kicking into the 21st century!

  • Women are not a species, for a start… (Humans are a dangerous species. )

    Regarding the OP, it is likely this woman is being held on Rule 45 (formerly 43) for her own safety, and would still need to be in a prison for women, given all the publicity. If the prison system had got the initial gender decision right, she might have been okay in a women’s prison, if judged by other prisoners solely on the basis of her appearance. But I agree with Rob, in the second comment above, a 12 week sentence is a nonsense, anyway.

  • Caron Lindsay 29th Oct ’15 – 1:28pm…No, @Expatts, one is a completely unsubstantiated sexist comment aimed at all women, the second is, actually, a statement of fact about the men who constructed society according to their rules……………

    Caron, thank you for that clarification…As a man I’ll now take the credit,on behalf of my gender, for the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833, all the Factory Acts of the 19th century, etc….Thanks again;,I’m feeling really proud of my sex…

  • David Evershed 29th Oct '15 - 4:24pm

    She’s never applied for a Gender Recognition Certificate and has thus officially chosen to be male. As a male, the authorities would be wrong to send him/her to a prison for women.

  • Helen Dudden 29th Oct '15 - 4:40pm

    I had wondered what her legal status was.

    I could add, not always easy being a woman, stand up for what you believe, and you downed for being aggressive.

    I think the Suffergetes changed so much in a woman’s world, before this, women were possessions without a voice.

  • Jenny barnes 29th Oct '15 - 5:07pm

    “Officially chosen to be male”. No choice involved. People are assigned an official gender shortly after birth based on a brief inspection of their genitals. It reminds me of th e “blenke/nieblanke” dichotomy of apartheid.
    There is a cost and many hoops to aGRC.

  • And I should point it out that it is party policy to remove those bureaucratic hoops and costs entirely. 🙂

  • nigel hunter 29th Oct '15 - 9:22pm

    I notice Caron that you did not comment on my thoughts on how to help the situation. You emotions can be a cause for good, witness Helen Dudden

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 29th Oct '15 - 10:29pm

    No, @Nigel Hunter, I was too busy calling out your appalling sexism.

    @David Evershed: No, she has not chosen to be male. She didn’t participate in what can be a highly stressful and demeaning and expensive quest to obtain a GRC. She is living as a woman, she identifies as a woman, she is a woman and should not be in a male prison. Reports suggest she is suffering sexual harassment on the one hour a day she is in the company of other prisoners. It would be wrong and immoral to subject her to weeks of this.

  • @Sarah Noble
    “And I should point it out that it is party policy to remove those bureaucratic hoops and costs entirely.”

    Yes, I see it is Lib Dem policy to “allow individuals to change their legal gender at will”. Which sounds great on the face of it, but what happens when male prisoners decide for whatever reason that they’d rather do their time in a women’s prison, so declare themselves women in order to achieve that? There have already been claims that some prisoners are doing this even under the current supposedly non-trans-friendly system :-

    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2014/07/28/uk-prison-officials-concerned-inmates-may-be-identifying-as-transgender-for-a-soft-life/

    You can’t have it both ways. If – as Caron and Tim Farron seem to believe – it’s important for the protection of some prisoners that they are held in gender-specific establishments, then I don’t see how prisoners can be allowed 100% discretion to declare their own gender. Inevitably, you’d still have to have a system where justice sector staff are having to make these decisions.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 29th Oct '15 - 10:51pm

    @Stuart: Tara has been living as a woman for all her adult life. There is no way she should be in a man’s prison. If a trans woman came out while in prison, I’d expect her to be dealt with sympathetically. It’s not something people do particularly easily.

  • @Caron
    My last post was making a general point, I wasn’t saying anything about Tara Hudson.

    Of course people who come out as trans in prison should be treated completely sympathetically, but it’s perfectly reasonable for prison authorities to want to ensure that people are really what they say they are. Would you agree with that, or would you be prepared to see female prisoners sharing their prisons with any man who simply says one day: “I’m a woman – move me to a female prison”?

  • What is this lady in prison for? It can’t be anything too serious if the sentence is weeks rather than months or years.

  • Zoe O'connell 30th Oct '15 - 9:46am

    @Stuart – There is no evidence of anyone successfully transitioning to gain access to a woman’s prison. The increase in people identifying as trans follows the trend in the rest of the UK with increasing acceptance and awareness – anyone who isn’t trans who transitions is likely to actually give themselves gender dysphoria and that’s nasty enough to drive many people who can’t get away from it to suicide. (If it wasn’t that bad, we wouldn’t transition in the first place!)

    If someone does transition and go on to cause trouble, then they should be handled in the same way as any other female prisoner who causes the same trouble. Sexual Harassment by women in prisons does happen, and the prison service do deal with it. (With varying levels of success)

    @Phyllis – The charge was assault, and it’s been said that the assault happened after she suffered transphobic abuse in a bar but I don’t know if the abuse was verbal or physical. A custodial sentence for assault is unusual and it would usually be suspended, so I assume there are other factors at play unless the Magistrates really screwed up.

  • I really feel for her , poor women 🙁

    It was covered in the Today programme and there is very great concern that she will take her own life on release because of the trauma, not to mention the threat of physical assault and rape. I hope she is released soon and put in house arrest for the duration of her sentence. I don’t think she belongs in prison.

  • Once again people are focusing on the symptoms and/or concequences and not the cause!

    The issue at the heart of the matter is that the person concerned didn’t get a GRC or have the gender recorded on their birth certificate officially changed. Without these officials are doing exactly as we would expect them to; namely treat the person according to their OFFICIAL gender.

    Hence, taking Jenny Barnes comment, the real issue here to look at what is involved with getting official recognition of a person’s gender and getting that process right and fair.

  • @Zoe
    But if the Lib Dem policy were put in to action, it wouldn’t even be necessary to transition – simply declaring oneself a woman would be sufficient.

    I find it interesting to compare the hostile reception I’ve received here with the discussion on the Angels forum when this question came up last year. (For those unaware, Angels is the UK’s most prominent transgender-orientated website). Pretty much everybody who took part (admittedly not many) was perfectly prepared to accept the possibility that some male prisoners may be capable of falsely claiming to be trans if the system makes it easy enough for them to do so and the rewards seem worth it. Yes, such people may be miscalculating wildly and could be in for a nasty shock when they find the disadvantages outweigh the advantages, but that’s not to say some people won’t try.

    Of particular interest is a post by “samcolins”, who says she is a transgender lawyer dealing with TG prisoners, and claims to have personal knowledge of some people who have sucessfully abused the system in the way I have described: ” I have one client who I know is flouting the system by stating they are trans but resigning to present male so as not to cause issues with other prisoners in order to simply get better possessions, private shower, better hygiene products and no obligation to work. This is not a hypothesis they have told me themselves.”

    If this is true, it isn’t necessary even under the current system to make any attempt at transitioning. I’m not claiming a forum post is incontrovertible evidence but it does have a ring of authenticity :-

    http://79.170.40.33/angelsforum.co.uk/phpforum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=27704&sid=5e9ac264544d8a9a6e69a5b6b2c03c76

    I stress again – since I keep getting misconstrued here – that I’m not suggesting for one second that Tara Hudson is not genuine. I’m simply making a general argument that this issue is much harder for the prison service to deal with than is being recognised by some here, and however regrettable it may be, there will always be a necessity to judge each case on its individual merits. On the face of it, someone got it horribly wrong in the Hudson case, but human error does not mean the whole system is anti-trans by design, and I think it’s irresponsible for Tim Farron to be suggesting as much.

  • @Roland
    “The issue at the heart of the matter is that the person concerned didn’t get a GRC or have the gender recorded on their birth certificate officially changed. Without these officials are doing exactly as we would expect them to; namely treat the person according to their OFFICIAL gender.”

    But that isn’t correct. A GRC is not required to be transferred to a women’s prison. It would certainly make it a lot easier, but it is not a requirement. Tara’s MP has made that clear, as have Pink News in other articles. This is not a case of officials having their hands tied by an inflexible system.

  • @Zoe O’Connell
    “The charge was assault, and it’s been said that the assault happened after she suffered transphobic abuse in a bar but I don’t know if the abuse was verbal or physical.”

    Turns out she head-butted a bar manager because he refused to serve her any more drinks on the grounds that she was severely intoxicated already. The headbutt bust the man’s nose and caused £3,500 worth of damage to his teeth. The court considers the assault to be “category 1” because of the nature of the head injuries. The judge has thrown out the appeal on the grounds of the defendant’s “worrying criminal record” (previous assaults, possession of offensive weapon) and the fact she was so intoxicated.

    The good news is that the judge has echoed the widespread appeals for the prison service to look again at whether Hudson should be in a male or female prison.

  • @Stuart – Thanks for providing some more details and focusing on bringing to the fore the real facts around this case. But I note the key phrase in your response: ” It would certainly make it a lot easier, but it is not a requirement.” which would suggest that we do need to review official policy and processes.

  • Zoe O'connell 30th Oct '15 - 1:59pm

    @Roland – Getting a GRC is not easy or quick – there are significant barriers including cost, access to doctors to get appropriate paperwork signed, (7 years on the NHS in some places) the Spousal Veto and bizarre requirements from the panel itself such as delaying anyone who they know has children. The Equality Act 2010 also watered down the protections given by having a GRC, so it’s unsurprising many people now don’t feel it’s worth the effort.

    Prison Service guidelines are quite clear that a trans woman who is long term transitioned should expect to end up in the female prison estate. Tara’s current situation goes absolutely against the Prison Services’s own guidelines so even if she’d been expecting a custodial sentence months ago and had the time to get a GRC, why would she have gone to the effort?

    @Stuart – Getting into internal trans community politics here, but Angels is predominantly a forum for cross dressers and very explicitly does not cover large portions of the trans community. (e.g. non-binary and trans men) It is not representative and a hostile reception for issues affecting those who have transitioned is not uncommon. Having said that, nothing I can see on that thread contradicts my original point – that nobody has transitioned successfully purely with the goal of gaining access to a woman’s prison. That people can get what is seen as an “easier ride” by claiming to be trans because they get private facilities just indicates how badly the prison service is able to handle trans people, but it’s not unique to gender identity – the same can apply to religion and that point is specifically mentioned in the thread.

    Useful information, on the details of the case, thanks.

  • @Zoe
    I have limited experience of trans community politics, but I did used to read the Angels forum now and again and your description is not how I remember it at all. There was always a wide variety of people there from across the spectrum, including many fully transitioned, and I never recall seeing anything other than friendliness and mutual encouragement. I believe they had a strict moderation policy for new users to keep the civility standards high, and it seemed to work well. On your specific point about trans men not being welcome, that’s news to me because at the time I was frequenting the site there were a couple of trans men who posted regularly and they were made just as welcome as anybody else. I haven’t frequented the site for a couple of years but feel I ought to check it out again in light of your comments.

    Quite a lot of information has come out about Tara Hudson today, which I’m not going to repeat here, people can find it all easily if they want to, but let’s just say that her case is a LOT more complicated than any of us thought yesterday, and I do not envy the prison service staff who are going to have to review the decision – there is no easy answer, and whatever they do they’re going to get slated for it. Looking around the web, a growing number of feminists and Mumsnet-types are pretty outraged at the thought of Hudson winding up in a women’s prison, so if anybody thinks that’s an easy solution, they’re wrong. I suspect she’ll have to stay in isolation whatever type of prison she finishes her sentence in.

  • An awful lot of sympathy for a repeatly violent individual. I’ve a lot more sympathy for the barman she/he headbutted, I believe it was her eigth offence. It might be a difficult call on where she does her time, but her victims would feel safer if it was longer.

  • Yes that’s why I said she does not belong in prison, she won’t be accepted wherever she goes. House arrest would protect the public and hopefully encourage her to mend her ways. I’m amazed she only got
    three months, seems very lenient. If my son had been head butted by someone who damaged his teeth to that extent I’d be outaged if it was less than a year, and much longer for repeat offenders.

  • She has now been moved to a female prison, according to the BBC. This was always a strong possibility given the flexibility within the rules, regardless of some of the ill-informed stuff being put about yesterday.

    Will be interesting to see what Tim Farron does next, seeing as he says massive reform of the rules is needed – or will he just forget about the whole thing now? There’s a good summary of the rules here :-

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-34675778

  • Richard Underhill 30th Oct '15 - 7:10pm

    Prisons do have facilities for protecting the vulnerable, but outside perceptions can be wrong.
    A wing full of convicted lifers is a place prison officers go for a quiet time.
    A wing full of remanded prisoners is likely to contain a lot of tension pending trial.
    Some vulnerable prisoners seek solitary confinement, or a transfer to another prison, for reasons that Prison Officers may not know about, such as gamblings debts.
    Some prisons are totally full of immigration offenders awaiting administartive removal or deportation.

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