Nicola Sturgeon about-turns over transgender prisoners

Sturgeon - Andy Buchanan/PA Wire
Sturgeon - Andy Buchanan/PA Wire
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Trans prisoners with a history of violence against women will no longer be moved to female jails in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon's Government has said in a dramatic U-turn aimed at stopping more scandals.

Keith Brown, the SNP's justice secretary, announced a temporary ban affecting newly convicted trans criminals with "any history" of violence against women, or those wanting to move from a male to female prison.

He said the measures had been introduced to ensure the "ongoing" safety of women prisoners while the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) conducts a review of the management of trans inmates.

His announcement came only hours after a UN expert on torture piled pressure on Ms Sturgeon to stop violent trans sex criminals being jailed in women's prisons, asking: "Where is the common sense?"

Current SPS guidance 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.

Although the new ban does not cover trans offenders already serving their sentences in female prisons, the Scottish Government confirmed it meant that one of Scotland's violent prisoners would no longer be moved to a women's jail.

It emerged on Saturday that Tiffany Scott who, when she was known as Andrew Burns, stalked a 13-year-old girl, had been approved for transfer to a jail that aligns with the serial criminal's chosen gender.

Andrew Burns - Central Scotland News Agency
Andrew Burns - Central Scotland News Agency

The ban would also cover 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 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 prison.

Ms Sturgeon said last week that "as a general principle" rapists should not be housed in women's prisons. However, she raised the prospect of exceptions being made and gave no guarantee about trans criminals convicted of other sexual offences.

Isla Bryson - Andrew Milligan/PA
Isla Bryson - Andrew Milligan/PA

Unveiling the ban, Mr Brown said no transgender criminal already in custody with "any history of violence against women" would be moved from the male to the female estate.

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

He said: "I understand that the issue of any trans woman being convicted of violent and sexual offences is a highly emotive subject and that the public concern is understandable.

“As the First Minister pointed out last week, we must not allow any suggestion to take root that trans women pose an inherent threat to women. Predatory men are the risk to women.

"However, as with any group in society, a small number of trans women will offend and be sent to prison. Therefore, I hope that the measures I am about to highlight will offer reassurance in the ongoing ability of the prison service to manage trans individuals and ensure the safety of all prisoners."

He said the SPS review was "nearing completion" and a separate "urgent lessons review" would be carried out in relation to the Bryson case, "with any learning to be applied immediately."

Mr Brown emphasised that SPS policies "have in no way been changed or impacted" by Ms Sturgeon's Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which would allow people to self-identify their legal gender simply by signing a statutory declaration.

However, the ban clashed with the legislation as the criminals affected self-identify as female but will serve their sentences in male prisons. The Bill has been blocked by the UK Government for damaging nationwide protections for women.

Russell Findlay, the Scottish Tories' shadow community safety minister, 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. The long overdue SPS policy review must now be completed as a matter of urgency."

The announcement came shortly after Dr Alice Edwards, a UN special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, said female inmates "have a right to be protected from violent sex offenders".

Tweeting in response to the Tiffany Scott case, she wrote: "#Scotland: Female prisoners have a right to be protected from violent sex offenders no matter how they identify. Where is the common sense? Clearer guidelines are needed."

JK Rowling tweeted:

Julie Bindel, a prominent feminist and author, told Camilla Tominey on GB News: "Nicola Sturgeon is anything but a feminist.

"She's a betrayer of women. She's a disgrace, and I do hope that this ends her political career, and that it serves as a warning to all the other posturers that come after her."

Ash Regan, a former SNP minister who resigned in protest at Ms Sturgeon's gender reforms, argued that Mr Brown should go even further, saying: "We need a new system where no male prisoners are allocated to the women’s prison estate."

An SPS spokesman said: "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."

He said the review would be "independently assessed by experts in women affected by trauma and violence.”