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Northland: Transgender woman sent to men’s jail

Thu 20 Dec 2012 In: New Zealand Daily News View at Wayback View at NDHA

A Northland transgender woman is to serve a jail term in a men’s prison, after attempts to have her sentenced to home detention failed. Glen Cooper has been sentenced to two years and one month in jail after she earlier pleaded guilty to a charge of wounding with intent to injure. During an argument with a man at a Whangarei home, she punched him in the face, threw things at him, and then hit him over the head with an unopened bottle of sparkling wine. In the Whangarei District Court, Judge Duncan Harvey gave Cooper a 15 per cent sentencing reduction in recognition of the difficulties she would have in serving her time in a men's prison. She was also given a 15 per cent reduction for the early guilty plea. Her lawyer Kelly Ellis had appealed to Judge Harvey to consider a sentence less than two years that would enable Cooper to serve her time on home detention. She believes Cooper will be at great risk of abuse in a men’s prison, and has been unable to access treatment while in custody. Current Corrections policy is that trans women who have not had surgery must serve their time in male prisons. Ellis, who is also a member of the group TransAdvocates, says there was an obvious appreciation by the judge of the inherent wrongness of denying treatment to any person for any reason. “He appreciated it wasn't special treatment for trans prisoners, but equal treatment,” Ellis says. “But, of course, treatment and support are multi-faceted and without a family to back her up, this outcast client had no home. Home detention requires, of course a home. “Having worked hard on this case, the lack of any address, let alone a suitable one, was an insurmountable obstacle. A two year sentence had been indicated. This is the cut off for Home Detention. But with no home, the imposition of a sentence of two years and one month was indeed merciful. “Had the judge imposed a sentence of two years, there is mandatory release at 12 months. By adding a month, Miss Cooper can now apply for parole in eight months and 10 days. I guess some days one has to work to see the silver lining.” Ellis has also been working on another case where she claims when a trans woman was remanded on bail for sentence, she was put in a cell on her own, before a gang member was put in there with her. “He sexually violated her,” Ellis says. “This happened a few metres beneath my feet. Anyone who doubts the dangers trans women face in men's prisons really needs to spend some time at the coal face.” Ellis says the woman was eventually given a non-custodial sentence. “These two cases have represented a long haul and while we might not have got all we wanted, there is now persuasive precedent which recognises the refusal to initiate treatment in prison as a mitigating factor,” Ellis says. “In the process a couple of judges, their clerks and registrars, prosecutors and the public have been give an intensive Trans 101, which can't be a bad thing.”    

Credit: Daily News staff

First published: Thursday, 20th December 2012 - 11:42am

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