Violent trans criminals are women, says Nicola Sturgeon's justice secretary

  • In US
  • 2023-01-30 12:25:25Z
  • By The Telegraph
Violent trans criminals are women, says Nicola Sturgeon
Violent trans criminals are women, says Nicola Sturgeon's Justice Secretary  

The violent trans criminals at the centre of the Scottish prisons scandal are women, the SNP's Justice Secretary has said after banning them from female jails.

Challenged whether Isla Bryson and Tiffany Scott were trans women or predatory males, Keith Brown said: "If somebody presents as a trans person, then we accept that at face value."

But he said they still did not have the right to be housed in women's prisons and insisted the decision rested on a Scottish Prison Service (SPS) risk assessment "with all the known facts."

He denied that his insistence that he trusted the SPS was undermined by him banning the service from sending any more violent transgender offenders to female prisons.

Mr Brown also said the Scottish Government would not review the Gender Recognition Reform Bill in light of the Bryson and Scott cases to provide more protections for women's spaces.

Alister Jack, the Scottish Secretary, has vetoed the legislation, which would allow people to self-identify their legal gender by simply signing a statutory declaration, over concerns it would undermine UK-wide protections for women.

However, current SPS guidance already states that trans criminals should be sent to the prison that matches the self-identified gender that they were living in prior to their conviction.

Segregated in male prison

A review of this policy is under way and Mr Brown announced on Sunday an interim ban on any transgender criminal already in custody with "any history of violence against women" being moved to the female estate.

He also said newly convicted or remanded transgender prisoners in this category will not be placed in a female prison, including those found guilty of sexual offences. They will instead be kept segregated in a male prison.

The ban covers Isla Bryson, who was sent to Cornton Vale women's prison last week after being convicted of two rapes. Court chiefs had wanted to send Bryson to Glasgow's men-only Barlinnie prison.

Bryson was named Adam Graham when committing the rapes and has not legally changed gender.

But the SPS guidance allowing criminals to self-identify their gender meant the rapist was initially sent to Cornton Vale. Following a huge public outcry, Bryson was moved to a men's cell in Edinburgh's Saughton jail.

The ban also covers one of Scotland's most violent prisoners, Tiffany Scott, who stalked a 13-year-old girl when known by the name Andrew Burns. It is understood that Scott is not undergoing treatment and has not medically transitioned.

'Rapist and sex offender'

Although Mr Brown denied a final decision had been taken, it was reported at the weekend that Scott had also been approved for transfer to a women's jail.

Ms Sturgeon last week refused to comment on whether she considered Bryson to be a man or woman, insisting that the decision over which prison the 31-year-old was sent to rested on the criminal being a "rapist and sex offender".

Asked if Bryson and Scott were transgender women or violent males attempting to manipulate the system, Mr Brown told BBC Radio Scotland: "If someone presents as a trans person, then we accept that at face value; what we do not accept is that that gives them the right to go to the prison estate of their choosing."

He added: "It's not trans people, trans women that present the risk to women by and large, it's predatory males. I think it's important to bear that in mind."

Pressed on the future of the gender legislation, he said "we will not be reversing that bill" and denied it needed more safeguards for women.

The Justice Secretary said it already had "provision to allow the police to make an order which would stop someone transition towards" obtaining a gender recognition certificate (GRC).

Five trans criminals in female prisons

His ban does not cover the five trans criminals already serving their sentences in female prisons but he said he understood that none had a history of violence against women.

In exceptional circumstances, he said a trans woman could be moved to the female estate but that would require the approval of Scottish ministers.

But Dr Michael Foran, a public law lecturer at Glasgow University, has warned the Bill would make it easier for trans prisoners to argue they should be in female jail and warned they could sue if their demands are refused.

He has said the decision on whether a trans criminal is housed in a male or female prison would be affected by whether they have a GRC and are legally female.

Ian Murray, Labour's Shadow Scottish Secretary,  said that the Scottish Government had "botched" the handling of the events of the past week.

He said: "I think in all reasonable terms people would see the current issues that are going on around the Isla Bryson case as being unreasonable, and the Scottish Government really do need to sort this out because the Equality Act is clear that single-sex spaces, including women's prisons, have got to be protected under the law, and it looks in this case as if people are being put in danger."

'Chaos, confusion and U-turns'

The Scottish Tories demanded Ms Sturgeon make a parliamentary statement to clarify Scottish Government policy in the wake of "chaos, confusion and U-turns" by SNP ministers.

Russell Findlay, their Shadow Community Safety Minister, also unveiled plans to table an amendment to the SNP's Bail and Release from Custody Bill to introduce a legal ban on violent transgender criminals being housed in women's prisons.

The move would make permanent the temporary halt on trans prisoners announced by Mr Brown, pending the SPS review being completed.

Mr Findlay said Ms Sturgeon "needs to explain her government's shambolic mess and make clear how the safety of female prisoners can be guaranteed."

He added: "We need full transparency because the only thing clear at the moment is that the Justice Secretary is in complete disarray. Keith Brown was only shamed into this dramatic U-turn after a sustained public outcry over two highly dangerous criminals.

"But a 'pause' on criminals with a history of violence against women being housed in female prisons does not go far enough. We need a permanent ban to safeguard vulnerable female inmates."


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