Berkshire

Lesbian prisoners forbidden from having sex lose court battle

HMP Bronzfield Image copyright David Squire
Image caption Michelle and Stephanie Hopkins contested decisions to separate them at HMP Bronzefield women's prison in Ashford, Surrey

A lesbian couple jailed for child cruelty have lost a court appeal against a decision which prevented them from sleeping together in prison.

Civil partners Michelle and Stephanie Hopkins, from Berkshire, contested a decision to separate them at HMP Bronzefield in Surrey.

The pair's legal team said their human rights were breached, but the Court of Appeal ruled against a judicial review.

Judge Sir Stephen Silber said the "no sex" rule was "sensible and realistic".

Michelle, 34, and Stephanie, 33, of Nire Road, Caversham, were jailed in 2014 for crimes described by prosecutors as "bordering on sadistic".

Both were serving 18-month sentences for child abuse relating to a period between 2011 and 2012.

The couple were initially allowed to share a cell on condition they did not have sexual relations, the court heard.

But in February 2015, Stephanie was moved to a different cell.

'Degraded and humiliated'

The pair were seeking judicial reviews of the prison's decision, claiming they had a right to a private and family life and that the separation deprived Michelle [who was paralysed from the waist down] of the carer she needed.

They said the decision left them feeling "degraded and humiliated".

Sir Stephen said the prison authorities acted in accordance with the law and dismissed their appeal.

In his judgement, he said Michelle had suffered no ill-treatment and the prison authorities had "no intention" to degrade or humiliate either woman.

He ruled their right to family life had also not been breached and, although he agreed Michelle was "disabled", there had been no discrimination against her.

Both women have now been released from prison and have separated since regaining their freedom, the judge said.

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