Newly convicted transgender prisoners with a history of violence against women will not be placed in female-only prisons.
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has announced a review on transfers of trans inmates after news that Isla Bryson, a transgender woman who was found guilty of two rapes pre-transition, would not be held at a women’s prison following major backlash.
She was being held at Cornton Vale, near Stirling, while awaiting sentence for the crimes she committed before starting the transition process.
Justice secretary Keith Brown has now blocked the movement of trans prisoners already in custody with any history of violence against women from being moved from the male to the female estate.
The measures also cover newly convicted or remanded transgender prisoner with any history of violence and/or sexual offences against women.
Bryson has now been moved to the male prison estate. The decision to hold her in an all-female jail faced widespread criticism from opposition politicians and a former prison governor.
Bryson was found guilty on Tuesday of raping one woman in Clydebank in 2016 and another in Drumchapel, Glasgow, in 2019, following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.
It also comes amid calls for the First Minister to prevent the transfer of trans prisoner Tiffany Scott to the female prison estate.
Scott, who stalked a 13-year-old girl while known as Andrew Burns, reportedly requested a transfer to a women’s prison –
Scottish Conservative equalities spokeswoman, Rachael Hamilton, alleged that she had also attacked female staff while in a men’s prison.
A spokesperson for the SPS said it had commenced an urgent review of all transgender cases currently managed in Scotland.
“Our first concern is always, and remains, the health, safety, and wellbeing of all the people in our care, and that of our staff,” it read.
“We have very robust risk assessment processes, and a track record of keeping people safe, in often challenging circumstances.
“We have therefore paused the movement of all transgender individuals, until the review has been completed.
“This review will consider any history of violence or sexual offending against women, and associated risk, with a view to determining the most appropriate location for the individual to be accommodated.”
They added that, until the review has been completed, any transgender people with a history of violence against women will only be admitted to the male estate – in segregation from the general population.
“This arrangement will be progressed in line with our human rights obligations.
“Finally, our ongoing policy review will be independently assessed by experts in women affected by trauma and violence.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had been called on to intervene in both cases.
Brown said SPS policies had “in no way been changed or impacted by the recent passing of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill,” which is yet to come into force.
The SPS review will be reported to the CEO by February 3.
“SPS have already been undertaking, in dialogue with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders, a review of the management of trans prisoners, which is nearing completion,” he said.
“In addition, an urgent lessons learned review has been instructed in relation to the case of Isla Bryson, with any learning to be applied immediately to existing transgender cases in the prison estate.
“The ongoing safety of prisoners – many of whom have experienced gender based violence in the community – will remain the priority in all actions that are taken.
“Beyond the steps being set out today, it is vital that decisions about the location and management of prisoners continue to be based on thorough risk assessment, drawing on the expertise and input of relevant professionals and applying any lessons learned from the reviews referred to.
“I am grateful to the SPS for their continued ongoing work in this area and for their professionalism in dealing with complex, high profile and challenging individuals within their care.”
Meanwhile, the Conservatives accused the government of flip-flopping on the issue and called for the review to be completed quickly.
MSP Russell Findlay said: “After much dithering and flip-flopping, the SNP government has finally been shamed into doing the right thing.
“Just days ago, the justice secretary tried to pass the buck, saying decisions on trans prisoners were for the Scottish Prison Service.
“But as public anger escalated, Nicola Sturgeon was forced to intervene by ordering the removal of a double rapist from a women’s prison.
“It should not have taken a second shocking case for them to ban all transfers.”
Mr Findlay also said he would ask Holyrood’s Criminal Justice Committee to investigate the decisions made in the cases of Scott and Bryson.
Scottish Labour’s justice spokeswoman Pauline NcNeill said: “The safety of women and women prisoners is of paramount concern, and it’s welcome to see Mr Brown finally recognise that.
“The SNP have been aware of the failures of the current policy in this area since it was agreed in 2014, it should not have taken this level of public outcry to do the right thing.
“The Scottish Government now needs to change the policy which they oversaw and to bring forward guidance which take account of the views of woman prisoners as a matter of urgency to make sure this does not happen again.”