Scottish ministers say they did not know trans rapist was put in women’s jail

Placing of transgender woman Isla Bryson in Cornton Vale caused outrage and led to review of all transgender inmates’ placings

Scottish ministers did not know about the decision to assess a transgender woman convicted of double rape last week at a women’s prison, according to the Holyrood justice secretary, prompting the Scottish Conservatives to demand a “detailed timeline” after a succession of U-turns.

Keith Brown’s statement to MSPs on Tuesday afternoon followed his announcement on Sunday that no transgender prisoner with a history of violence against women will be accommodated in a women’s prison pending an urgent review of all transgender inmates, and after heavy criticism from opposition parties of the government’s “botched” and “chaotic” handling of the case.

On Monday, the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, said her government has nothing to apologise for in its handling of the developing controversy that began a week ago when Isla Bryson was transferred to Scotland’s sole female-only prison, Cornton Vale, for initial assessment in segregation.

It was later reported that Tiffany Scott, who is subject to an order for lifelong restriction – reserved for Scotland’s most violent and dangerous offenders – after admitting stalking a 13-year-old girl by sending letters from jail while living as a man had been granted a transfer to the female estate.

Questions were also raised over the decision to transfer another transgender woman, Katie Dolatowski, who was convicted of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl, to Cornton Vale last year.

Last week, it emerged that the Scottish Prison Service had overruled an initial decision by the court service to take Bryson to Barlinnie, a men’s prison, after the offender was remanded in custody to await sentencing at the end of February.

After Brown defended the SPS decision to MSPs last Wednesday, Sturgeon announced at first minister’s questions on Thursday that Bryson would be moved to a male facility. It later emerged that she had made a rare intervention during a meeting involving Brown, although her official spokesperson said the first minister had not ordered the Prison Service to move Bryson, a point Brown reiterated on Tuesday.

Brown told MSPs on Tuesday that he was “very conscious of the importance of maintaining public confidence in the justice system”, but added: “We must not allow the legitimate questions that have been asked to fuel the view that trans women suddenly pose an inherent threat to women when that is not the case”.

He said that the temporary ban was “not dissimilar” to the recent tightening of policy announced by Dominic Raab, the UK’s justice secretary for England and Wales, but said there would still be “exceptional circumstances” where Scottish National party ministers would formally intervene.


Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Trans violent offenders banned from women’s prisons in England and Wales
New rules also cover transgender women ‘with their male genitalia intact’, says Dominic Raab

Peter Walker Political correspondent

26, Feb, 2023 @5:15 PM

Article image
Scotland says transgender prisoners with violent pasts will not go to women’s jails
Justice secretary pauses transfer of all transgender prisoners after outrage about rapist Isla Bryson being sent to all-female prison

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

29, Jan, 2023 @6:11 PM

Article image
Trans rapist prison case ‘must not lead to blanket rule’, says campaign group
Scottish Trans and Nicola Sturgeon say decisions must be made on case-by-case basis

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

27, Jan, 2023 @5:20 PM

Article image
Trans woman guilty of raping two women remanded in female prison in Scotland
Politicians, campaigners and UN special rapporteur concerned by case of Isla Bryson, who offended before she had transitioned

Libby Brooks

25, Jan, 2023 @6:49 PM

Article image
Sunak government threatens to block Scottish gender recognition law
Ministers considering ‘nuclear option’ after MSPs overwhelmingly back bill on transgender rights

Libby Brooks and Peter Walker

22, Dec, 2022 @11:08 PM

Article image
Scottish leadership election leaves gender reform hanging in balance
SNP politicians fear quarrel weighing on leadership contest, while any compromise could break coalition with Greens

Libby Brooks and Severin Carrell

16, Feb, 2023 @7:20 PM

Article image
Scottish parliament vote on gender recognition changes delayed until Thursday
Vote on law that would remove need for diagnosis of gender dysphoria to obtain gender recognition certificate pushed back after fraught debate

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

22, Dec, 2022 @8:52 AM

Article image
Why Scotland’s gender reform bill is sparking concern over trans prisoner policies
Analysts warn of legal challenges if bill makes inmates’ access to gender recognition certificates easier – though jail allocation is decided case by case

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

26, Jan, 2023 @5:37 PM

Article image
Westminster block on Scotland’s gender recognition bill may be gift to the SNP
While young transgender Scots express anger and frustration at intervention, critics doubt the looming legal battle will bring any more clarity

Libby Brooks Scotland correspondent

17, Jan, 2023 @7:18 PM

Article image
SNP suffers biggest ever backbench revolt over transgender bill
One minister resigned to vote against making it easier for transgender people in Scotland to change their legal sex

Libby Brooks and Severin Carrell

27, Oct, 2022 @8:04 PM