Karen White

Karen White
Photo via Daily Telegraph

Karen White/Stephen Wood/David Thompson, a violent male who identifies as a trans woman, was convicted at Leeds Crown Court in September 2018 of two rapes in 2016 and another rape in 2003. White was previously jailed for 18 months in 2001 for two offences of indecent assault and gross indecency with a child. The Mail reports that White is also awaiting sentence for stabbing a neighbour. 

White also admitted two counts of sexual assault against two women while held on remand in a women’s prison – a complete and utter failure of the safeguarding responsibilities owed to those vulnerable women. Two further charges of sexually assaulting two other women in prison were ordered to remain on file. Also remaining on file are a further rape allegation against the 2016 victim and a charge of controlling behaviour against her. It is utterly incomprehensible that someone denied bail (to protect the public) and therefore remanded to await trial for rape would be housed in a women’s prison full of vulnerable female prisoners with no route of escape from a male sex offender.

The Sunday Times revealed further details of White’s long history of violence and sexual violence against women and girls facilitated by abject failures to safeguard those at risk. White committed one of the rapes while in a probation hostel on licence for the sexual offences against a child and was – unbelievably – not recalled to prison. White then went on to gain access to another vulnerable victim in a mixed psychiatric unit whom he raped repeatedly – another closed facility where vulnerable victims could not escape from a convicted male sex offender. The article also highlights that none of these most severe of red flags prevented a multiple rapist and paedophile sex offender like White being housed at HMP New Hall (a prison which has a mother-and-baby unit) despite officials having access to details of all previous offending on file. White’s history of violence against a former partner, her daughter and his son is also evidenced by the restraining order preventing White from contacting the son until he turned 18.

Mark Fairhurst, acting general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, said the rapist’s placement among women prisoners was “disgraceful”, adding: “We would demand a full inquiry and we would expect disciplinary action to be taken against decision makers.”

Post conviction for the sexual offences against a child but prior to identifying as a trans woman, White had been living under the name David Thompson. The Sun reports that White was a drag queen who self-identified as transgender having failed to attend referral appointments at a transgender clinic and therefore indicating an absence of intention to medically transition. In any case, drag queens/crossdressers are included under the UK government’s and LGBT organisations’ definition of the ‘trans umbrella‘ or people who are ‘gender incongruent to some degree.

Sentencing was adjourned until 11 October 2018 to allow the judge to assess reports on the danger that White poses.

The UK Government is currently consulting on reform of the Gender Recognition Act regarding self-identification of gender which many believe could make it very much easier for abusive men to identify as transgender women and access spaces where women are vulnerable like prison, rape crisis centres, refuges and hospital wards. Anyone can input into the consultation here before 19 October 2018.

The Telegraph reports that the Prison Service admitted that a local Transgender Case Board did not take place. The board must meet within three days of reception into custody to risk assess prisoners identifying as transgender and take account of previous offending history before housing them in a prison opposite to their biological sex. The Transgender Case Board is often cited as the safety gatekeeping measure capable of preventing violent and sexually abusive males gaining access to vulnerable women in prison; this is obviously severely questioned by this egregious case and clearly of no comfort whatsoever to the women White sexually assaulted.

A spokesperson said: “We apologise sincerely for the mistakes which were made in this case. While we work to manage all prisoners, including those who are transgender, sensitively and in line with the law, we are clear that the safety of all prisoners must be our absolute priority.”

The British Association of Gender Identity Specialists submitted evidence to the Transgender Equality Inquiry on “the ever-increasing tide of referrals of patients in prison serving long or indeterminate sentences for serious sexual offences” and identified clear, worrying motivations for some male prisoners to transition; most alarming of which was a desire to make subsequent sexual offending very much easier. The British Psychological Society similarly warned the Inquiry to be “extremely cautious of setting law and policy such that some of the most dangerous people in society have greater latitude to offend” and were “aware of a number of cases where men convicted of sex crimes have falsely claimed to be transgender females.” 

White previously appeared before magistrates in July 2018 and the charges were widely reported as four charges of sexual offences (sexual touching) against four female inmates in a women’s prison. At the hearing, White reportedly lied about having erectile dysfunction and not being attracted to women. Sexual touching is a serious crime prosecuted under the Sexual Offences Act 2003 and is sentenced under the same guidelines as sexual assault, with a maximum prison sentence of ten years if the complainant is over the age of 13.

White, 51, is extremely unlikely to have a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) and has clearly not had gender reassignment surgery. The original reason that the prisoner was removed from the women’s prison and placed in HMP Armley, a Category B men’s prison is unclear as at least some of the offences were reported following White’s transfer. As the offences took place between September and November 2017 and the first of the attacks reportedly took place within days of the prisoner arriving at HMP New Hall it is therefore possible that the prison did not act to immediately safeguard vulnerable female prisoners following an initial report.

The first complainant said White stood close to her and touched her arm while the prisoner’s erect penis was visible outside their trousers. The second complainant reported that White alarmed her with comments about oral sex before giving her a bear hug so White’s penis was forcefully held against her. The third woman also made a complaint of being attacked and a fourth female prisoner complained that White kissed her on the neck. 

Media reports

The Guardian https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/sep/09/sexual-assaults-in-womens-prison-reignite-debate-over-transgender-inmates-karen-white

Sunday Times https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/why-was-convicted-paedophile-allowed-to-move-to-a-female-jail-nmpbfm272 (time-limited share token link here)

James Kirkup in The Spectator https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2018/09/why-was-a-transgender-rapist-put-in-a-womens-prison/

Janice Turner in The Times https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/trans-rapists-are-a-danger-in-women-s-jails-5vhgh57pt

Daily Telegraph https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/09/06/transgender-person-accused-rape-remanded-female-prison-sexually/

The Sun https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/7197153/transgender-rapist-women-inmates-in-jail/

Daily Mail http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6139305/Transgender-prisoner-rapist-identifies-woman-admits-sexually-assaulting-fellow-inmates.html

BBC https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-45436953

Metro https://metro.co.uk/2018/09/07/transgender-woman-admits-sexually-abusing-fellow-inmates-at-all-female-prison-7922059/

Yorkshire Evening Post https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/crime/transgender-rapist-admits-sexually-assaulting-female-prisoners-before-move-to-male-prison-leeds-crown-court-1-9338082

BBC https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-44877856

The Sun https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/6804433/transgender-lag-sexually-abused-four-female-prisoners-days-after-arriving-at-west-yorkshire-jail/ archive

Daily Mail www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5964539/Transgender-prisoner-female-jail-sexually-assaulted-four-women.html

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