Scottish prison chiefs have rejected the idea of holding transgender inmates on separate wings, after concerns were raised that their policy was putting other prisoners at risk.

Campaigners have claimed that the current policy, under which Scottish prisons are advised to house male-bodied transgender inmates in women's prisons, is "open to abuse".

The concerns follow the case of Karen White, who was born male, but identifies as female, and who has a long history of sexual and violent offences against women.

White, formerly known as David Thompson, or Stephen Wood, admitted to sexually assaulting four inmates in New Hall prison, near Wakefield.

The head of a leading criminal justice charity this week called for UK prisons to review their policies, warning that policies designed to protect a vulnerable minority could be abused and that the needs and interests of vulnerable female prisoners risk being ignored or devalued.

Richard Garside, Director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies and Senior Visiting Research Fellow at The Open University, said: "It does not need spelling out why keeping male and female prisoners in separate accommodation should be one of the minimum expectations for the treatment of prisoners.

"This important principle has, though, been somewhat eroded by attempts to accommodate those prisoners who assert a gender identity at odds with their birth sex."

He said it was of great concern that male-bodied prisoners could be transferred to a women's prison, simply by asserting their gender identity as female. "While some transgender prisoners will no doubt sincerely hold beliefs about their gender identity, the system is obviously open to abuse."

International standards, backed by the UN, dictated that women's prisons should exclusively hold only girls and women who were born female, he said.

"There are numerous reasons why this should be the case. Highly vulnerable, often traumatised, prisoners are the rule, not the exception, in women's prisons. Many have faced male sexual violence and exploitation," he added.

"Consider what it must be like for women who have experienced male violence to have males imprisoned alongside them.

"The Prison Service needs to give serious thought to transgender wings or other facilities where they can live out their identity in a more comfortable environment than is likely to be the case in a conventional male prison."

Speaking to the Herald, Mr Garside said: "it is perfectly possible f or the Scottish Prison Service, as it is for the service in England and Wales, to establish individual wings or whole institutions specifically for transgender prisoners, where they would be able to express their gender as they see it in a safe and respectful situation."

"It is not obvious to me that it makes sense to locate male to female transgender prisoners in women's institutions. When the vast majority retain their mail genitalia, it raises obvious safeguarding issues."

In 2013, 22 year old Paris Green, who is serving an 18 year sentence for murder, had to be moved from Cornton Vale women's prison, amid claims the pre-op trans woman had had sex with a number of inmates.

The current SPS policy states that "A male-to-female person in custody living permanently as a woman without genital surgery should be allocated to a female establishment.

"She should not be automatically regarded as posing a high sexual offence risk to other people in custody".

A similar rule says that a female-to-male person should be housed in a men's jail.

However a SPS spokesman said such decisions were never made without a detailed and often lengthy risk assessment. "We respect the ability of individuals to live in their professed gender and try to accommodate that but it is not an absolute right," he said. "We very carefully risk assess individuals prior to agreeing to this."

He said there were no plans for separate wings or prisons for transgender inmates, and said it was possible that such a move would breach the rights of such prisoners.

"Separate wings are not something we are considering at the moment," he added.

Nicola Williams, spokeswoman for the Fair Play for Women group, which campaigns for female rights, said the views and safety of women had not been sufficiently taken into account when the SPS framed its policy. "We’ve called for a review of the prison guidance down south and exactly the same thing needs to happen in Scotland,” she said.