Case Studies: 

‘Karen White’ (AKA David Thompson & Stephen Terrence Wood) 
Karen White
Karen White

This male was convicted in September 2018 at Leeds Crown Court of two rapes committed in 2016, the rape of a pregnant woman in 2003, the wounding by stabbing of an elderly male neighbour and burglary.  He was jailed for life, with a minimum sentence of nine-and-a-half years.  Passing sentence, Judge Christopher Batty said, “You are a predator and highly manipulative and in my view you are a danger.  You represent a significant risk of serious harm to children, to women and to the general public.” (Jon Sharman, Independent, 11 October 2018)


White already had an established history of violence and sexual offences against women and children, with convictions including indecent assault, gross indecency with a child and indecent exposure (Andrew Gilligan, The Sunday Times, 9 September 2018).  He had previously told probation officers that he was sexually interested in children and could abuse a child and “think nothing of it.” (Jon Sharman, Independent, 11 October 2018)

Despite this history, White was held on remand at a women’s prison, HMP New Hall.  Unsurprisingly, given his crimes, he committed four counts of sexual assault against the female prisoners who were forced to share their living accommodation with him.  He admitted two of these counts of sexual assault; the two other charges were ordered to remain on file (Chris Brooke, Daily Mail, 6 September 2018).


Mark Fairhurst, then acting General Secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, said White’s placement amongst female prisoners was “disgraceful” adding, “We would demand a full enquiry and we would expect disciplinary action to be taken against decision-makers.” (Andrew Gilligan, The Sunday Times, 9 September 2018). The Prison Service admitted that the procedures relating to the transfer of transgender prisoners had not been followed.  A spokesperson said, “We apologise sincerely for the mistakes which were made in this case.  While we work to manage all prisoners, including those who are transgender, sensitively and in line with the law, we are clear that the safety of all prisoners must be our absolute priority.” (Jon Sharman, Independent, 11 October 2018).  


This case received extensive media attention, with the majority of reporters expressing their outrage that this male had been housed in the female estate.  Despite this, female pronouns and his preferred female name continued to be used to refer to him, leading to such farcical statements as:


“Convicted paedophile Karen White, who was born Stephen Wood, was undergoing gender reassignment, but had not undergone full surgery, when she was accused of repeatedly raping a woman in 2016.” (Martin Evans, Kate McCann & Olivia Rudgard, The Telegraph, 6 September 2018)


“White is currently believed to be inside a male prison and that is where she will serve her sentence.” (Jon Sharman, Independent, 11 October 2018)


The use of female pronouns is quite usual when men who have ‘transitioned’ are being reported in the press, even when those reports are critical.  You can learn more about this by watching These Are Not Our Crimes.


White was moved to HMP Wakefield, a Category A men’s prison, where he is serving his life sentence.  However in January 2019 it was reported that he was seeking ‘gender reassignment surgery’ and hoping that this would enable him to be sent back to a women’s prison (Dan Warburton, Mirror, 5 January 2019).  He was quoted as stating, “I’m longing for the day the system sends me - more like forced to send me - to a female prison again.”

See also:

Why was a transgender rapist put in a women’s prison?

James Kirkup, The Spectator, 7 September 2018


Trans rapists are a danger in women’s jails.

Janice Turner, The Times, 8 September 2018