The Government’s policy of housing transgender women in female prisons is lawful, the High Court ruled today – despite claims from an inmate it raised the risk of sex attacks.
A female prisoner, known only as FDJ, brought a legal challenge against a Ministry of Justice (MoJ) policy which allows prisoners to be housed according to their gender identity ‘irrespective of whether they have taken any legal or medical steps to acquire that gender’.
At a High Court hearing in March, lawyers for FDJ argued that accommodating transgender women in the female prison estate ‘exposes female prisoners to a risk of sexual assault that would not arise absent that allocation’. They argued this was discrimination against cisgender women as that risk did not exist when transgender men are placed in men’s prisons.
However, the MoJ argued the policy pursued a legitimate aim, including ‘facilitating the rights of transgender people to live in and as their acquired gender (and) protecting transgender people’s mental and physical health’.
In today’s ruling, two High Court judges rejected FDJ’s claim and upheld the MoJ’s policies as lawful. Lord Justice Holroyde said: ‘It is not possible to argue that the defendant should have excluded from women’s prisons all transgender women.
‘To do so would be to ignore, impermissibly, the rights of transgender women to live in their chosen gender.’