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Vigil Held After Transgender Woman Vicky Thompson Found Dead In Men's Prison

Supporters gathered on the steps outside Bradford magistrates court where Vicky Thompson was sentenced. Her partner Robert Stele led the crowd in a minute’s silence.

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An investigation was launched after Vicky Thompson, 21, was found unresponsive at HMP Leeds on the evening of Friday 13 November.

A West Yorkshire police spokesperson said: "The death was classed as not suspicious and the coroner's office was informed."

On Sunday supporters gathered on the steps outside Bradford magistrates court where Thompson was sentenced, the BBC reported. Thompson's partner Robert Stele led the crowd in a minute's silence.

Thompson, from Keighley, West Yorkshire, was born male but had identified as female since her mid-teens.

She was handed a 12-month jail term in August, which was suspended for 24 months. After breaching the terms of her sentence, Thompson was remanded at Bradford crown court, the BBC reported.

Her solicitor, Mohammed Hussain, described Thompson, who had not undergone sex reassignment surgery, as a "vulnerable transgender person".

He advised the judge that Thompson was "essentially a woman" and had asked for her to be sent to New Hall women's prison, near Wakefield.

Thompson had reportedly told her friends that she would kill herself if sent to a men's prison, The Guardian said.

Steele had spoken to her a day before she was found dead. "She didn't like it in there because people were saying things to her because she was dressing as a female," he said, the BBC reported.

In a statement a Prison Service spokesperson said: "HMP Leeds prisoner Vicky Thompson was found unresponsive on the evening of Friday 13 November.

"Staff and paramedics attempted resuscitation but she was pronounced dead at 8:48pm.

"As with all deaths in custody there will be an investigation by the independent Prisons and Probation Ombudsman."

The news of Thompson’s death follows the recent appeal by a transgender woman to be moved from an all-male prison to a female prison, after it was initially dismissed by Bristol crown court.

Tara Hudson was given a 12-week sentence at a male prison in Bristol, despite having lived as a woman her entire adult life.

Over 150,000 people signed a campaign claiming that the court's decision not to move Hudson was a "breach of her human rights" as it placed her in "extreme danger of abuse, sexual violence, and even death".

Hudson, who has had six years of gender reassignment surgery, had told her mother that she was being sexually harassed by male prisoners.

Campaigners and MPs took to social media on Friday morning to voice their concerns at the treatment of transgender prisoners.

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Tim Farron called for an urgent reform to the law in light of Thompson's death.

We must reform the law urgently. BBC News - Transgender woman Vicky Thompson found dead at Armley jail https://t.co/DzbGEc2RXi

Speaking to the House of Commons on Friday prisons minister Andrew Selous said the numbers and experiences of transgender people in prisons would now be recorded and published for the first time.

He also confirmed that a review of government policy for trans prisoners was ongoing, and that new guidance would soon be issued.

Fiona Rutherford is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Fiona Rutherford at fiona.rutherford@buzzfeed.com.

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