Starting point for sentencing to double under first government strategy to tackle prejudice against transgender people
Murderers who kill disabled or transgender people in hate crimes are to face much longer prison sentences under government proposals.
The justice secretary, Kenneth Clarke, said the "starting point" for judges sentencing in disability and transgender murder cases was to double from 15 to 30 years.
The move will bring sentencing in these cases in line with murders in which race, religion or sexual orientation is an aggravating factor.
It follows the jailing in September of Leon Fyle, 23, for life for the murder of Destiny Lauren, a transgender woman who worked as a prostitute. Fyle, who was convicted after a retrial, was given a 21-year tariff.
The proposal is part of the government's first strategy to tackle transgender prejudice in England and Wales. The equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, said the strategy included support for transgender pupils in schools, measures to tackle discrimination in accessing public services and greater steps to protect transgender people's privacy, including not having their transgender identity revealed at work without their consent.
Ministers are to introduce amendments to the legal aid, sentencing and punishment bill now going through parliament to double the starting point in murder cases. It will also allow judges to pass tougher sentences for any crime in which hostility towards transgender or disabled people is an aggravating factor.
Clarke said that hate crime left sections of society living in fear and at risk of unprovoked violence. "The courts already treat hate crime seriously and aggravate sentences accordingly," he said. "These proposals make clear offenders should be in no doubt that they face a more severe sentence for these unacceptable crimes."
The "starting points" for sentencing killers are laid down in the 2003 Criminal Justice Act, which provides judges with guidance on determining the minimum term under a life sentence for murder. Any aggravating or mitigating factors present in the case are then taken into account by the judge before reaching the final minimum term or tariff.
Featherstone said the first transgender equality plan was needed because statistics showed that 70% of children who were uncertain about their gender were subject to bullying. The official figures also show that 88% of transgender employees experienced discrimination or harassment at work, and that hate crime against transgender people had recently risen by 14% to 357 incidents last year.
"Too many transgender people still face prejudice at every stage of their lives, from playground bullying, to being overlooked for jobs or targeted for crime," said Featherstone. "Like everyone else, transgender people have the right to be accepted, to live their lives free of harassment, and to be free to achieve any ambition they choose."
The action plan includes reforms to health services, including clearer guidance to doctors; changing how gender identification is represented in passports; and new steps to protect privacy at work.
April Ashley, who became the first Briton to have sex reassignment surgery in 1960, said: "I think there are so many support groups out there unlike when I did my transition 51 years ago when there was no help at all. Today's announcement shows we are moving forward to breaking down barriers and educating people."