Stephen Wood / Karen White

Karen White/David Thompson (born Stephen Terence Wood), a violent male who identifies as a trans woman, was convicted in September 2018 of two rapes committed in 2016, the rape of a pregnant woman in 2003, the wounding (stabbing with a steak knife) of an elderly male neighbour and burglary.

White also admitted two counts of sexual assault against two women while held on remand in HMP New Hall (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 perpetrated against her. It is utterly incomprehensible that someone denied bail (to protect the public) and therefore remanded to await trial would be housed in a women’s prison full of vulnerable female prisoners with no route of escape from a male sex offender.

White was jailed for life at Leeds Crown Court in October 2018 and must serve a minimum of nine-and-a-half years for rape, sexual assault and wounding.

Passing sentence, Judge Christopher Batty said: “You are a predator and highly manipulative and in my view you are a danger. You represent a significant risk of serious harm to children, to women and to the general public.”

The court heard from the prosecution that “the reason for the lack of commitment towards transitioning is so the defendant can use a transgender persona to put herself in contact with vulnerable persons she can then abuse.” White began identifying as transgender around the time of being arrested for stabbing the neighbour and had held a reign of terror over the local community, threatening to report anyone who e.g. stumbled over pronouns to the police for committing a hate crime. White once called 999 to report an elderly neighbour to the police for saying ‘he’ when referring to White.

Richard Garside, Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, can be seen discussing the issues of transferring violent male offenders into women’s prisons on BBC News here

White was previously jailed for 18 months in 2001 for two offences of indecent assault and gross indecency with a child. The BBC reported that White also had previous convictions for indecent exposure to a child, violence and dishonesty. White told probation officers of being sexually interested in children and could abuse a child and “think nothing of it”. HMP New Hall, where White was incarcerated on remand, has a mother and baby unit.

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 the 2003 rape of a pregnant woman (whose drink White spiked to render her unconscious) while living in a probation hostel on licence for the sexual offences against a child and was – unbelievably – not recalled to prison. The Independent reports that the victim’s husband had not believed her and she had made an attempt to end her life. In her impact statement she told the court “I have no relationships with anyone. I felt very dirty as a woman. I became very depressed. Even now 15 years on I still struggle with mental health and suffer horrendous flashbacks. Until 15 years ago I was a strong woman.”

White then went on to gain access to another vulnerable victim via a mixed-sex psychiatric unit – another closed facility where vulnerable victims could not escape from a convicted male sex offender. White repeatedly raped and subjected the woman to violent, controlling behaviour; in her victim impact statement she also said she had tried to take her own life and was worried she cannot have children due to internal damage from being violently raped by White.

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 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.

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 correct procedures relating to the Transgender Case Board review 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.” 

All media coverage and officers of the court have referred to White using female pronouns e.g. ‘her penis’ and it is reasonable to wonder whether White’s prolific and appalling offending has been recorded in male or female crime statistics. All major national media covered news of White’s conviction except the Guardian; even the BBC managed six sentences. The Guardian did (finally) follow up with an detailed piece three days later citing Frances Crook, the chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform as saying

Media reports

Daily Mirror  archive

The Spectator  archive

The Mirror

The Sun

BBC  archive

The Guardian  archive

Independent  archive

Daily Mail  archive

The Guardian

Sunday Times  archive

James Kirkup in The Spectator   archive

Janice Turner in The Times  archive

Daily Telegraph  archive

The Sun

Daily Mail



Yorkshire Evening Post


The Sun archive

Daily Mail

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