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Transpeople (Prisons)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 11:44 am on 20th November 2015.

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Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous Assistant Whip (HM Treasury), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice 11:44 am, 20th November 2015

I begin by offering my sincere condolences to the family and friends of Vicky Thompson. Her death, like all others in custody, is a tragedy, and we are totally committed to reducing the number of deaths in prison. Each one is investigated by the independent prisons and probation ombudsman and is the subject of a coroner’s inquest. We believe that Vicky Thompson was being looked after in accordance with the relevant procedures, but that is now a matter for the ombudsman and coroner. While their investigations are ongoing, it would be wholly inappropriate for me to comment on the circumstances of her death.

I would also like to mark the fact that today, 20 November, is designated as transgender day of remembrance and to reflect on the violence still suffered by members of the trans community.

On the specific issue of transpeople in prison, prison service instruction 7/2011 sets out the National Offender Management Service’s policy on the care and management of prisoners who live, or propose to live, in the gender other than the one assigned at birth. Prisoners are normally placed according to their legally recognised gender, which means either the gender on their birth certificate or the gender on their gender recognition certificate. However, the guidelines allow some room for discretion, and senior prison staff will review the circumstances of every case in consultation with medical and other experts in order to protect the physical and emotional wellbeing of the person concerned, along with the safety and wellbeing of other prisoners.

While the most appropriate long-term location for a transgender prisoner will be considered in accordance with the procedures outlined above, the usual practice is for them to be held in a supportive environment, away from the main regime of the prison and protected from risk of harm by other prisoners. The risk-assessed daily regime will be structured to give the prisoner exercise and recreation and some measure of planned, supervised contact with other trusted prisoners. Where relevant, clothing and toiletries are provided to enable the prisoner to present in their acquired gender, consistent with the arrangements set out in the prison instruction.

More generally, prisoners who are transitioning are entitled to live in the gender they seek to acquire. Prisons must produce a management care plan outlining how the individual will be managed safely and decently within the prison environment, with oversight from psychologists, healthcare professionals and prison staff. A review of the current policy began earlier this year, and revised policy guidance will be issued to reflect NOMS’ responsibilities to transgender offenders in the community, as well as in custody. The intention is to implement the guidance in due course.

The management and care of transpeople in prison is a complex issue, and the review is using the expertise developed by NOMS practitioners, as well as engaging with relevant stakeholders, including those from the trans community, to ensure that we provide prison staff with the best possible guidance. The Government are committed to tackling all forms of discrimination and the underlying cultural attitudes that underpin inequality, so that everyone, regardless of gender, race or background, is given the opportunity they deserve.

I can also announce to the House that Kate Lampard has been appointed interim chair of the independent advisory panel on deaths in custody. She is a former barrister previously appointed by the Secretary of State for Health to provide independent oversight of the NHS investigation into Jimmy Savile and by Serco to lead the Yarl’s Wood investigation.