A transgender prisoner has been jailed for life after admitting sexually assaulting two women inmates while being held on remand and the previous rapes of two other women.
Karen White, 52, was described as a “predator” who was a danger to women and children, Leeds Crown Court heard.
White, who was born male but now identifies as a woman and is transitioning, was jailed for two counts of rape, two sexual assaults and one offence of wounding.
The court heard she used her “transgender persona” to put herself in contact with vulnerable women.
She must serve a minimum term of nine-and-a-half years before parole can be considered.
White appeared by video link from HMP Leeds, and sat impassive during the hearing, wearing a patterned blouse and glasses with shoulder-length blond hair.
She attacked two women while at HMP New Hall, a women’s prison between September and October last year. At the time she was on remand for other offences.
White also had previous convictions for indecent assault, indecent exposure and gross indecency involving children, violence and dishonesty.
Passing sentence Judge Christopher Batty told the defendant: “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.”
Christopher Dunn, prosecuting, told the court: “She is allegedly a transgender female.
“The prosecution say allegedly because there’s smatterings of evidence in this case that the defendant’s approach to transitioning has been less than committed.
“The prosecution suggest the reason for the lack of commitment towards transitioning is so the defendant can use a transgender persona to put herself in contact with vulnerable persons she can then abuse.”
Mr Dunn told the court White was first arrested after attacking a 66-year-old neighbour with a steak-knife in Mytholmroyde, West Yorkshire last August 15.
She accused her victim of a sexual approach and “slobbering all over” her in the communal laundry at their accommodation then later stabbed him with the knife, saying: “I’m going to kill you.”
While on remand at HMP New Hall, White began gender re-allignment, wearing a wig, make-up and false breasts.
While there she became friendly with another female inmate, until an incident on September 13 last year while in the queue for prisoners to get medication.
Mr Dunn said: “The complainant, while waiting, felt something hard press against the small of her back. She turned around to see the defendant stood there. She could see the defendant’s penis erect and sticking out of the top of her pants, covered by her tights.”
The matter was then reported to police and another prison assault came to light.
Another inmate told how she was in the prison workshop with White when the defendant was making “inappropriate comments about blow jobs.”
White then grabbed her hand and put it on the defendant’s left breast with the words: “Oh look, they are not real ones.”
White admitted both offences of sexual assault.
While in jail, White had written to an earlier victim he had raped but which was not reported to police at the time. She subsequently complained to the prison authorities and police began to investigate.
The woman, in her 20s, told police White had violently raped her five or six times between January and December 2016, while they were in a relationship after meeting at a psychiatric unit in West Yorkshire.
White was described as violent and controlling, who told his victim what to wear, how to dress and even made her change her name.
“He would also fly into a violent rage for “minor infractions from his regime”.
Mr Dunn said it left his victim “vulnerable, demotivated, demoralised and terrorised”.
In a victim impact statement she said she had tried to take her own life and was worried she cannot have children due to the “internal damage” from the rapes.
The final victim dated back 15 years to August 2003, the court heard, and again came to light after police investigations following White’s arrest last year.
The defendant, who was then known as Stephen Wood and living in Manchester, had offered to help decorate a flat belonging to the wife of a friend, who was two months pregnant.
While in the flat, White secretly spiked the woman’s drink with vodka until she passed out, the court heard.
Mr Dunn continued: “The complainant woke up and felt the defendant on top of her…having sex with her.”
White was arrested but no information was given in court as to why he was not prosecuted at the time.
The victim told the court in a statement the attack had ruined her life and her husband had not believed her.
This woman had also tried to commit suicide. In a statement to the court she said: “I have no relationships with anyone. I felt very dirty as a woman. I became very depressed. Even now 15 years on I still struggle with mental health and suffer horrendous flashbacks. Until 15 years ago I was a strong woman.”
The court heard White began identifying as a woman around the time she was remanded into custody awaiting trial for attacking the neighbour last August and about to embark upon gender re-assignment.
While on remand White freely admitted to probation officers she was sexually interested in children and could abuse a child and “think nothing of it”.
Outside court, Detective Inspector David Rogerson, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “White has pleaded guilty to a number of serious sexual offences which span many years. White was originally called Stephen Wood and was from the Manchester area.
“We welcome White’s guilty pleas to these offences, which have spared the victims the ordeal of a trial. We are pleased to see White appropriately sentenced by the courts for what are very serious offences.”
A source said White is currently inside a male prison and that is where he will serve his sentence.
A Prison Service spokesman 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.”
A prison source said White is still legally a man.
But even if she was to have gender transition surgery and legally change her gender to a woman it is highly unlikely she would be then transferred back to a female prison because of the nature of her offences and the danger she poses to other women inmates.