Transgender woman pleads 'Don't put me in men's jail'

By Kristin Edge

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A Northland lawyer has asked for a reduced sentence to allow her transgender client to serve her time at home rather than in a men's prison, where she would be at great risk of abuse.


Lawyer Kelly Ellis made the submission to Judge Duncan Harvey in the Whangarei District Court after Glen Cooper pleaded guilty to a charge of wounding with intent to injure on January 17 this year.


Transgender is a recognised medical condition, which can require a variety of treatment options.


A transgender woman is a person born male who has gone through, or is in the process of, transition or gender change.


Ms Ellis said Cooper would be exposed to significant danger in a men's prison.


The police report said Cooper had been drinking with others at a Whangarei home when an argument erupted between her and another man.


Cooper punched the man in the face causing him to fall off a chair and then threw various things at him, including cups.


When the man got to his feet, Cooper hit him over the head with an unopened bottle of sparkling wine.


Ms Ellis said that was done as the man tried to punch Cooper. The man suffered two cuts to his head, which needed stitches, and an artery in his leg was cut.


Judge Harvey said as there was an attack to the head there was a risk of someone dying.


The only mitigating factor was that there was some provocation. After reading the victim impact statement, Judge

Harvey said it was not surprising the man had suffered a great deal and the laceration to the leg was a serious injury.


Because the guilty plea had not come at the earliest opportunity, only a 15 per cent discount could be given. Ms Ellis said there should be a significant discount for transgender issues.


Judge Harvey acknowledged that a sentence of imprisonment would impact heavily on Cooper.

The judge said he was prepared to allow a discount of between 10 and 15 per cent.

That would not make Cooper eligible to apply for home detention.

However, Judge Harvey said that by the time Cooper was sentenced she would have been in remand for about 11 months.

Judge Harvey said that if those 11 months were taken into account, the final sentence might enable home detention to be imposed for Cooper.

"Under normal circumstances I would not take this approach but it recognises the difficulties of this person in a male prison," the judge said.

"It would be unjust not to hold out hope of home detention."

To qualify for home detention, the sentence the judge imposed would have to be under two years.

Cooper was remanded in custody until November 23 for sentencing.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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