Married transgender female prisoners win legal battle over the decision to let them speak by letter only
Two married transgender female inmates who have been refused calls or visits to each other have won a battle at the Supreme Court after a judge found their relationship had been reduced to ‘penpals’.
The two inmates, neither of whom have been named, have taken legal action against HMP Whatton, HMP Stafford and the Department of Justice (MoJ) to challenge their decisions to prevent the couple from communicating except through letters.
The 45-year-old transgender woman who filed the claim was given a public protection (IPP) prison sentence in 2006 for sexually assaulting a child under the age of 13, with a minimum term of just over a year.
Her wife, now 32, was awarded an IPP in 2009 for offenses for possession of indecent images, with a minimum term of 18 months.
The transgender women met in 2015 in HMP Whatton, Nottinghamshire.
Shortly after the couple got married in June 2017, the plaintiff said she was transferred to another prison without warning and had no chance to say goodbye to her wife.
Two married transgender female prisoners who have been refused calls or visits to each other have won a battle at the Supreme Court after a judge found their relationship had been reduced to ‘penpals’. Pictured: the Supreme Court in London
Initially, all contact was refused after the move, but the couple was later allowed to contact by letter, while phone calls and visits between prisons remained prohibited.
In a verdict on Friday, Mr Justice Morris said the women’s video connections from their prisons to this trial were the first time they had seen or heard about each other in nearly four years.
The transgender woman who made the claim argued that the bans were an unjustified interference in her right to private and family life.
Mr Justice Morris said the woman was not against being observed during the contact, adding that she would be “ happy if the prison monitored phone calls or supervised visits.
“She doesn’t mind even having an officer in the room.”
Her lawyers argued that the restrictions were passed for the purpose of splitting the relationship and not for the inability to control and prevent violations or risk escalation while in custody.
However, the prisons and the MoJ argued that the two transgender women pose a risk to each other and the wider community, and that the risk is too great to allow face-to-face or telephone contact.
They argued that the transgender woman who made the claim has psychopathic traits and is controlling, while her wife is very vulnerable with an ongoing sexual interest in children, meaning both pose a risk to the community and to each other.
The transgender women met in 2015 at HMP Whatton (pictured), Nottinghamshire
Mr Justice Morris ruled in favor of the woman, finding the bans to be an ‘unnecessary and disproportionate’ interference in her private and family life.
He said: “Both pose a challenge to those entrusted to their care in prison.
“Their history of insult may pose a serious risk to the public and the most vulnerable people in society.”
The judge continued: “ Although I denied such an intention, it seems to me that by forbidding telephone contact and in-person visits, coupled with moving the plaintiff to another prison, the defendants have the nature of the relationship between this couple. reduced to, at best, one of ‘pen pals’.
The two inmates, neither of whom have been named, have taken legal action against HMP Whatton, HMP Stafford (pictured) and the Department of Justice (MoJ) to challenge their decisions to prevent the couple from communicating, except through letters. Shortly after the couple got married in June 2017, the plaintiff said she was transferred to another prison without warning
“Although I inquired, no explanation was given as to why, so shortly after they got married, it was decided to relocate the plaintiff.”
Mr. Justice Morris felt that there should be “solid evidence” of the need for restrictions and that the defendants’ statements were “diverse and at times vague and inconsistent.”
It is not clear how limiting contact with the plaintiff is likely to diminish her continued sexual interest in children.
“There is no indication that this will be the case,” he added.
The judge also awarded the plaintiff an unspecified amount in damages, noting that she had suffered “ significant fear, frustration and anxiety ” in recent years.