A transsexual prisoner serving life for manslaughter and attempted rape committed while she was a man won a High Court declaration today that a refusal of the authorities to move her to a women's prison was a violation of her human rights.
The 27-year-old prisoner, who cannot be identified, was described by her lawyer as "a woman trapped inside a man's body".
Today, Deputy Judge David Elvin QC, sitting at London's High Court, quashed Justice Secretary Jack Straw's decision to continue detaining "A" in a male prison.
He said: "I declare her continued detention in a male prison is in breach of her rights under Article 8 (right to private and family life) under the European Convention on Human Rights".
The judge was told that steps were already being put in place to transfer A to a female prison "as soon as possible".
Barrister Phillippa Kaufmann, appearing for the prisoner, told the court: "An indication has just been given to us that the transfer should be effective in a few weeks."
Ms Kaufmann had described at a recent hearing how, although apparently born male, A had her womanhood recognised by law and her birth certificate had been amended to show her female sex.
Hair on A's face and legs had been permanently removed by laser and she had developed breasts after hormone treatment.
But she was forbidden from wearing skirts or blouses, or more than "subtle" make-up, at the men's prison where she was being held on a "vulnerable prisoners" wing.
To complete her change to full womanhood, she required gender reassignment surgery, but had been told she could not have it while she remained in a men's prison.
Prisoner A was not in court today but, at the recent hearing over two days in July and August, she had watched the court proceedings via video link from prison.
Her seated figure was visible on screens in the courtroom as Ms Kaufmann argued the refusal to move her to a women's prison breached her right to respect for her private life under Article 8.
The Department of Justice and the prison authorities argued that the prisoner would be no more likely to be accepted by inmates at a female prison and that, if moved, she would have to spend long periods in segregation at an extra cost of £80,000 per year.
They contended that a move to a female jail might have a serious impact on her mental health and make it more difficult for her to reduce her level of risk to society and win early release from her sentence.
The court heard that the prisoner's female sex had been recognised under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 and her birth certificate amended accordingly.
In a 30-page ruling, Judge Elvin described A as "a 27-year-old pre-operative transgender woman" seeking judicial review against the decision of the Justice Secretary and a prison governor to keep her in a male prison and not transfer her to a female prison.
Although born a man, she had been undergoing the process of gender reassignment, and in 2006 was granted a certificate under the 2004 Gender Recognition Act which required her to be recognised as a woman "for all purposes".
She was serving an automatic "two strikes" life sentence for manslaughter "by reason of provocation of her male partner" in 2001, and attempted rape of a female stranger five days after her release from her five-year manslaughter sentence.
Her life sentence tariff, the minimum period she must serve before being considered for parole, expired in 2007.
A was diagnosed as suffering from gender dysphoria and had been aware of her condition from an early age, said the judge.
There had been several stages to her being recognised as a female, all happening during her current sentence.
She had been taking feminising hormones since early 2003 and had been referred to a gender identity clinic and received laser treatment to remove unwanted facial and genital hair. She no longer had to shave.
After treatment she obtained a gender recognition certificate which gave her legal recognition as a woman.
She said in her evidence: "That felt like an important stage. No one can take my female status away from me.
"Till the day I die I will be a woman.
"For me it is simply a reflection of how it should have been from the start.
"The start was a mistake and now it is being put right."