Group plea for safe sentence for transgender woman

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An organisation for transgender people hopes Northland's Glen Cooper's safety will be taken into consideration when she is sentenced next month.

Glen Cooper appeared in Whangarei District Court recently and pleaded guilty to wounding with intent to injure after she struck a man over the head with a bottle full of sparkling wine.

The injured man was left with cuts to his head and a laceration to his leg that required stitches.

Cooper is represented by lawyer, and member of the group TransAdvocates, Kelly Ellis, who 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.

Judge Duncan Harvey gave a sentencing indication that there could be a 10-15 per cent discount due to Cooper's situation which may bring the jail term below the two year threshold needed to make an application for home detention.

Ms Ellis submitted if Cooper went to jail in a men's prison, she would be at great risk of abuse.

Chairman of the group Genderbridge, Joey MacDonald, said safety was the crucial issue and hoped the Department of Corrections would take into consideration where the person would feel most safe.

"We have the right to be treated without discrimination, in accordance with the gender we identify with, with the aim of maintaining our dignity, safety and self-determination," Mr MacDonald said.

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

While unable to comment specifically on a case which remains before the courts, or a judge's ruling, Greens' rainbow MP Jan Logie said it was worrying Cooper has been on remand in a male prison for nine months.

"We have research that has clearly established reasons to be concerned for the safety of transgender prisoners in prisons that do not match their gender identity.

"The safety of prisoners can't be left to judges, we need the Minister to make a policy decision to protect trans prisoners."

Logie was one of the MPs who extensively quizzed Corrections Minister Anne Tolley on the Corrections Department policy to house transgender prisoners based on their sex at birth, unless they have had full gender reassignment surgery, during a question time session in Parliament in February.

Tolley denied transgender inmates were vulnerable to sexual abuse and sexual assault in prison. She also stated that she believes "a man who is transgender, but pre-surgery, is still a man".

- Northern Advocate

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