Court hears of transgender woman's ordeal in male prison


A transgender woman who headbutted a bar manager will remain behind bars - but a judge has said prison officials should reconsider where she serves her sentence.

Tara Hudson, 26, has lived as a woman all her adult life and has gone through six years of gender reconstruction surgery.

The make-up artist, who is still legally a man, was handed a 12-week jail term by magistrates following a Boxing Day assault - which saw her sent to an all male prison.

She launched an appeal against her sentence - which was heard before Bristol Crown Court today.

A panel of three judges, headed by Recorder Llewellyn Sellick, decided to dismiss her appeal after ruling the appellant had a "worrying criminal record".

A visibly startled looking Hudson sat in the dock in a prison-issue grey tracksuit, while her barrister Nicholas Wragg said his client - who suffers from a mental illness - had suffered a torrid time at HMP Horfield (Bristol).

A court heard Hudson has been separated from the rest of the prison population and "locked in a cell 23 hours a day".

Mr Wragg said: "The clang of a prison door should never be pleasant. It should have a sobering effect on a person .

"But Ms Hudson has had an awful time - she has found it unrelenting and frightening.

"As she left prison today to come to court - where she was placed in a female cell - she found herself taunted by other inmates shouting 'Tara Tara, show us your tits'."

Last week Hudson, who was previously known as Raymond Aaron David, appeared before magistrates in Bath on a charge of assault at Be At One Bar in the Somerset town on December 26 2014.

She had initially denied any wrongdoing and claimed self defence.

However, on the day of her trial she changed her plea.

The court heard a very drunk Hudson had headbutted the bar's manager Christopher Dyer after she was refused any more alcohol.

Mr Dyer needed £1,500 worth of dental surgery following the attack.

Hudson, who has eight previous convictions including offences for battery, had hoped her punishment would see her placed on an electronic tag and made to undergo an alcohol awareness course.

Magistrates said the assault, which came three weeks after Hudson had been given a conditional discharge, was so serious that only custody could be justified.

She was then sent to HMP Horfield - which holds around 600 men.

Mother Jackie Brooklyn, 48, said there was nothing male about her daughter.

"Nobody would know the difference," she was reported as saying.

"She looks like a woman. She's gorgeous."

Ms Brooklyn added her daughter had previously suffered years of abuse for her gender status and insisted she would be safer in a "female environment".

A petition calling for Ms Hudson to be transferred to an all female prison attracted more than 125,000 signatures ahead of her today's hearing.

It said: "We, the undersigned, stand with Tara and her family and believe that this decision is in breach of her human rights, and places her in extreme danger of abuse, sexual violence, and even death."

Her barrister Mr Wragg told an appeal hearing that Hudson had suffered from psychotic symptoms since 2009 - and a highlighted a Probation Service report saying that a "custodial sentence would have a detrimental effect".

He added: "It's not that she should not be punished. She can be dealt with in such a way that is of benefit to her and the community."

But Judge Sellick said Hudson had a "worrying criminal record" which contained "numerous offences".

He said the attack on Mr Dyer had breached a conditional discharge given three weeks previously.

He added: "It is for the prison service to and not the court to establish where a sentence should be served.

"We would invite further and sensitive consideration of these issues (in Hudson's case)."

Outside Bristol Crown Court, around 30 demonstrators waved placards with slogans such as "trans lives matter" and the hashtag #iseetara.

Ms Brooklyn said she was bitterly disappointed by the decision and called on the Prison Service to transfer her daughter to a female jail immediately.

She added: "Her life in Bristol prison has been utter hell and she is constantly being harassed."