Transgender woman Vikki Thompson found dead at Armley jail

image copyrightRobert Steele
image captionBoyfriend Robert Steele said Vikki Thompson should not have been put into an all-male jail

A transgender woman who told her friends she would kill herself if she was sent to a male prison has been found dead in jail.

Vikki Thompson, 21, was being held at Armley, Leeds, where she was pronounced dead on Friday.

Friends of Thompson, who was born male but had identified as female since her mid-teens, said she had asked to be sent to a female prison.

An investigation into her death has been launched, the Prison Service said.

Thompson, from Keighley, West Yorkshire, was handed a 12-month jail term in August which was suspended for 24 months.

The BBC understands she later breached the terms of the sentence, and was remanded in custody at Bradford Crown Court.

Her solicitor, Mohammed Hussain, said he had advised the judge she was "essentially a woman" and asked for her to be sent to New Hall women's prison, near Wakefield.

image copyrightGoogle Street View
image captionThompson was held at Leeds Prison, known locally as Armley jail

He said he also asked for any sentence to be reduced if it was decided Thompson would be sent to an all-male prison.

Mr Hussain described Thompson, who had not undergone gender reassignment surgery, as a vulnerable transgender person.

The issue of sentencing transgender prisoners was raised last month, after Tara Hudson was initially sent to an all-male prison.

She was later transferred to a female jail after a campaign calling for her to be moved.

Alex Kaye, from SafeT, which represents transgender people, said he hoped Ms Thompson's death would bring about a change in the law.

"Any woman would not be happy to be in a male prison regardless of any gender identity history," he said.

Transgender prison rules

  • Prisoners should be placed according to their gender "as recognised by UK law" - usually as stated on their birth certificate
  • If a person has obtained a "gender recognition certificate", they will have a new birth certificate in their "acquired gender"
  • Prisoners who obtain a gender recognition certificate while in prison "should in most cases be transferred to the estate of their acquired gender"
  • But the rules also say some transgender people will be "sufficiently advanced in the gender reassignment process" that they could be placed "in the estate of their acquired gender, even if the law does not yet recognise they are of their acquired gender"
  • Where issues arise, a "case conference" should be held to "review the prisoner's individual circumstances and make a recommendation"

Source: The Care and Management of Transsexual Prisoners, Ministry of Justice website

Thompson's boyfriend, Robert Steele, said he had spoken to her a day before and had booked a visit to the prison before her death.

"She didn't like it in there because people were saying things to her because she was dressing as a female," he said.

A Prison Service spokesperson said: "HMP Leeds prisoner Vikki Thompson was found unresponsive on the evening of Friday, 13 November.

"Staff and paramedics attempted resuscitation but she was pronounced dead at 20:48 GMT.

"As with all deaths in custody there will be an investigation by the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman".

West Yorkshire Police said Thompson's death was not being treated as suspicious.

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