UK

Transgender rapist moved to women's prison after sex change

A shadow is cast of a cell door Image copyright Getty Images

A rapist has been moved to a women-only prison after having gender reassignment surgery.

Jessica Winfield, formerly known as Martin Ponting, was relocated to HMP Bronzefield in Ashford, Surrey.

The convicted rapist was previously held at top security Whitemoor prison in Cambridgeshire, where she was serving a life sentence.

Before her gender reassignment, Winfield complained of being victimised for being a transsexual.

Ten years ago, she wrote to prisoners' newspaper Inside Time to say she was given a "hard time because of my sexuality, possibly through lack of understanding and empathy".

At the time she wrote: "I have changed my name to that of a female to prove to the authorities and everyone concerned that I am very serious about my gender and that I do not feel right being a man."

But one of Ponting's victims has described the fact her attacker was allowed a sex change as "diabolical".

She told the Sun newspaper: "There are not enough words to describe him and the evil he has done.

"It is diabolical they have allowed him to have a sex change and diabolical that he could be freed this year.

"He may have changed physically but his brain is still the same."

The Prison Service has said it does not comment on individuals.

Campaign group Voice4Victims said the case "highlights the great imbalance of equality within our justice system".

Writing on Twitter, the group said: "Rapist has sex change op funded by NHS whilst victims struggle to access treatment support and recovery."

This is not the first time a transgender inmate has moved from a male to a female prison. Prisoners are placed according to their gender as recognised by UK law - usually stated on a birth certificate.

If the prisoner has a "gender recognition certificate", the Prison Service is legally required to move them to the prison of their gender.

In November of last year, the government announced it would re-examine its policy on transgender prisoners following the death of Vikki Thompson, who was an inmate in a male prison in Leeds.

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In January, the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman recommended that where a transgender prisoner is sent should be based on an individual assessment of their needs and the possibility of them being with their acquired gender.

John Pilley, also known as Jane Anne, made legal history in 1999 when he became the first inmate in England and Wales to be granted permission for a sex change operation.

Pilley was serving life for the attempted murder and kidnapping of a woman taxi driver. It was later reported he decided to become a man again and was waiting to have his second operation on the NHS.

About 80 transgender people are believed to be in prison in England and Wales.

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