Scottish man prosecuted for not revealing his trans status

Besi Besemar April 12, 2013

Chris WIlson
Chris WIlson

Chris Wilson a trans man has been sentenced to 3 years probation and 240 hours community service for “obtaining sexual intimacy by fraud” by failing to disclose his birth sex.

Scottish Transgender Alliance (STA) says fraud prosecution “threatens trans people’s right to privacy” and was “the wrong charge to bring.”

Chris Wilson was sentenced at the High Court in Edinburgh to 3 years probation and 240 hours community service, having pled guilty to two counts of “obtaining sexual intimacy by fraud”.

Although Wilson identifies as male he was prosecuted for not telling his sexual partners that he was labelled female at birth. Other factors affecting this  case included Wilson lying about his age claiming he was 17 when he was 21 while the two young women involved were only 15, although one had claimed to be 16. However, he was not charged with any offences relating to sexual activity with people below the age of 16.

Tim Hopkins, Director of the Equality Network, an organisation working for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality in Scotland, said:

“Chris Wilson broke the law by having sex with the 15 year old girl who had claimed to be 16. But he was not charged for that, instead the charge was “obtaining sexual intimacy by fraud” because in the Fiscal’s eyes he had “lied” about his gender. It was the wrong charge to bring, and the message it sends to trans people is you will be criminalised if you don’t share your gender history with sexual partners.”

Scotland’s national transgender equality charity, STA, based at the Equality Network, warned that “the nature of this prosecution has seriously undermined trans people’s trust in the Scottish criminal justice system.”

Nathan Gale, STA development worker at the Equality Network, said:

“We understand that some people may be distressed when they become aware of the trans status of a partner or former partner. But just in the same way that people aren’t obliged to share other personal information with potential partners, for example that they are married or have criminal convictions, trans people shouldn’t be forced to share private information about their gender history under fear of prosecution.”

Setting the sentence, judge Lord Bannatyne said he recognised that Chris Wilson did not dress as a man in order to commit offences, but “always dressed that way”.

As a comparative example, a 31 year old man who had sex with a 14 year old girl who had claimed to be over 16 was prosecuted at the Sheriff Court and also sentenced to 240 hours of community service, whereas Wilson’s case was prosecuted at the High Court, reserved for the most serious offences. This lends weight to the STA’s claim that Wilson’s fraud prosecution was “a completely inappropriate charge.”

At the time Wilson’s story came to light in early March, the Equality Network wrote to the Lord Advocate, saying:

“We are extremely concerned about the charge that was brought in this case, and the message that COPFS sends to the trans community by prosecuting a transgender person for presenting as a different gender to that which they were labelled at birth.” 

They asked the Lord Advocate for an urgent meeting to discuss how COPFS can address the trans community’s concerns, a request which has, as yet, gone unanswered.

Following Wilson’s sentencing, Gale said:

“I sincerely hope that COPFS will understand the seriousness of trans people’s fears and respond to our call to take urgent steps to address them.”