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Transgender Prisoners

Volume 620: debated on Tuesday 24 January 2017

The House will be aware of the tragic death of Jenny Swift at Doncaster prison on 30 December. My sympathies are with her family. As with all deaths in custody, there will be an inquest and an independent investigation by the prisons and probation ombudsman. We are firmly committed to ensuring that transgender offenders are treated fairly, lawfully and decently, with their rights and safety respected.

I cautiously welcome the new guidance regarding the management of transgender prisoners, and I am sure we are all keen to see all transgender people treated with respect and dignity. However, can the Minister assure the House that the new guidance applies to transgender people held in immigration and detention centres, as well as to those housed in the general prison system?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. The new guidelines to staff were issued on 9 November, following a review of the management and care of transgender offenders. The review involved independent oversight, including from the Prison Reform Trust. To put the issue into perspective, we have 70 people in this position in the estate at the moment, which broadly reflects the incidence in the population. Specifically on the question the hon. Lady asks, if she writes to me, I will reply.

The National Offender Management Service guidance is very welcome, but will the Minister outline whether it applies to non-binary people who are in prisons, because this issue is not just about those who define themselves as men or women but about non-binary people as well?

I thank my hon. Friend for that question. Again, to put the issue into perspective, we currently have four people who are in that position in the estate. The new guidelines state that all transgender prisoners

“must be allowed to express the gender with which they identify”,

irrespective of prison location.

Will the Minister confirm that that means there is no longer a requirement for a gender recognition certificate? Will he also tell us how confident he is that these guidelines are being applied across the whole estate and when he expects to do an assessment of their impact?

The underlying principle is that people are cared for and managed in the gender with which they identify, rather than that being based solely on their legally recognised gender. As I said earlier, the guidelines came about through interaction with various independent organisations, and staff are being trained in this area. I think some perspective is required here: we have a prison system that is traditionally male-female, and we are dealing with relatively small numbers, but, yes, I am keeping an eye on this issue. In particular, with regard to recent tragic events, I am also looking individually at each case.