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Transgender woman could get home detention

Thursday 11 Oct 2012 2:55 p.m.

A Whangarei judge may allow a transgender woman to be sentenced to home detention because of the risk she faces of abuse in prison.

Glen Cooper pleaded guilty to a charge of wounding with intent to injure in the Whangarei District Court late last month.

She was charged following an incident in January where she struck a man on the head with a wine bottle during an argument, and is remanded in custody at an all-male prison.

Ms Cooper's lawyer Kelly Ellis told NZ Newswire on Thursday that Judge Duncan Harvey has indicated he will recognise that her client's transgender status will allow a 10 to 15 per cent discount on a prison sentence.

Judge Harvey said a home detention sentence is within the realm of possibility, but Ms Ellis said this will require a good pre-sentence report, a favourable psychiatric report and a good address.

"We're not out of the woods yet," Ms Ellis said.

"Generally speaking if you open a big bottle of wine on somebody's head and cause them significant injuries, avoiding jail does require some pretty exceptional circumstances.

"He found a number of significant circumstances and being transgender was one of them."

A transgender person is someone who is trying to change gender and is taking medical steps to do so, Ms Ellis said.

She said Ms Cooper would not be able to begin hormone treatment while she was in prison, which, she argued, was in breach the Bill of Rights Act.

Judge Harvey didn't accept this argument, saying Ms Cooper could have done more to seek treatment earlier, Ms Ellis said.

However, Judge Harvey accepted that Ms Cooper could face a hard time in prison.

Ms Ellis said that while her client is now in segregation, she still lives in fear of sexual assaults and locks herself in her cell most of the time.

Ms Cooper will reappear in court for sentencing on November 23.

NZN

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