Campaigns: Judicial Review R (FDJ) v Secretary of State for Justice
Our first campaign was in response to the Judicial Review brought by a female prisoner who reported that she was sexually assaulted by a male prisoner who had been convicted of rape and who had been imprisoned with her in the female estate. The woman seeks to challenge the lawfulness of placing male-bodied transgender prisoners convicted of sexual and violent offences against women in the female estate. She is also challenging the Government policy on the Unit for male transgender prisoners located within the female prison estate at HMP Downview citing evidence that female prisoners are still put in a position of risk. The case was due to be heard in the High Court on 28th and 29th October 2020. However, it was adjourned after documents were produced by the Government the morning of the first day concerning the legal advice and reasoning that informed the policy on housing transgender prisoners. The defence claimed that some of this content is subject to legal privilege, meaning that it could not be heard in these court proceedings. In light of this, the case was adjourned and is not expected to be heard until 2021.
What did we do?
• We worked with a group of women across Labour and Conservative parties to write to Ministers, MPs and Peers notifying them of the Judicial Review, highlighting the vulnerabilities women in prison face, and asking them to support our call that prison policy and practice should reflect the single-sex exceptions in the Equality Act.
• We focussed on the media, speaking to both print and broadcast media to ensure the Judicial Review and the issues it raises are given the publicity and attention they deserve. As well as focussing on the right of women in prison to single-sex spaces, we discussed the particular risks of housing males convicted of violent sexual offences against women in the female prison estate.
• We produced an open letter signed by legal professionals, academics and those working in the prison service calling for the Ministry of Justice, Her Majesty’s Prisons and Probation Service and the Scottish Prison Service to bring policy and practice in line with the Equality Act. This letter will be published in the national press once the Judicial Review has been heard in 2021.
We will be picking up this campaign again once a new date for the Judicial Review has been released.