A transgender woman convicted of raping two women is being moved to a male prison, hours after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced she would not be held in Scotland’s only all-female jail.
The Scottish First Minister addressed the row over where Isla Bryson, 31, from Clydebank, should be imprisoned after being found guilty of two rapes carried out when she was a man.
Bryson was taken to Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling after being convicted on Tuesday. The transfer to the male prison is expected to be completed on Thursday.
Speaking during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said a risk assessment was being carried out by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), but she stressed Bryson would not be housed at Cornton Vale.
She said: “It would not be appropriate for me, in respect of any prisoner, to give details of where they are being incarcerated.
“But given the understandable public and parliamentary concern in this case, I can confirm to Parliament that this prisoner will not be incarcerated at Cornton Vale women’s prison.
“I hope that provides assurance to the public.”
The case was raised by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who questioned why Bryson had initially been placed in the female-only jail after being remanded into custody prior to sentencing.
Branding Bryson a “beast”, Mr Ross said: “This double rapist only decided to change gender after he was charged by the police.
“It took the threat of jail for this criminal to decide to change his gender. That’s not a coincidence, that is a conscious decision.
“We think it is wrong that a rapist is sent to a women’s prison. We believe a rapist having access to a women’s single-sex space is a threat.”
Ms Sturgeon said: “Short term or long term, this prisoner is not going to be in Cornton Vale.
“But it is important to allow the Scottish Prison Service operationally to give effect to the decisions that they have taken.”
A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said: “Decisions by the SPS as to the most appropriate location to accommodate transgender people are made on an individualised basis, informed by a multi-disciplinary assessment of both risk and need.
“Such decisions seek to protect both the wellbeing and rights of the individual as well as the welfare and rights of others around them, including staff, in order to achieve an outcome that balances risks and promotes the safety of all, and that is exactly what has happened in this case.”
The initial decision to place prisoners in facilities rests with the Scottish Courts and Tribunal Service (SCTS), but in this case Bryson was supposed to be taken to HMP Barlinnie in Glasgow, according to the courts.
An SCTS spokesman said: “It is normal practice for the warrant issued by the court to select the local prison for a prisoner to be remanded in, however the Scottish Prison Service are not bound by this. In this case, the warrant stated HMP Barlinnie.”
Speaking to journalists later, the First Minister said the Government had given no “formal direction” to the prison service on where Bryson should be imprisoned.
She added: “In all cases where a risk assessment is being done, the prison service will not necessarily wait until it is concluded if there are reasons for a different decision on where a prisoner is accommodated.
“This individual case is not about whether they are trans or not, in this individual case this is a person who’s been convicted of rape, so this individual is a rapist and a sex offender and that is what’s important.”
In a briefing for the media after First Minister’s Questions, a spokesman for Ms Sturgeon said her view on Bryson had been relayed to the prison service through officials, but it would be wrong to say her opinion had changed the decision to bar the prisoner from Cornton Vale.
The spokesman would not say if it is now Scottish Government policy to bar all rapists from female prisons.
Bryson, previously known as Adam Graham, was on Tuesday found guilty of raping one woman in Clydebank in 2016 and another in Drumchapel, Glasgow, in 2019, following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.
During the court proceedings, Bryson claimed she knew she was transgender at the age of four but did not decide to transition until she was 29, and is currently taking hormones and seeking surgery to complete gender reassignment. - Press Association