FMQs: Transgender rapist will not be imprisoned in women’s prison, says Nicola Sturgeon

A transgender woman convicted of raping two women while she was a man will not be incarcerated in a women’s prison, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The First Minister said she agreed with comments from a charity boss that it is wrong for a rapist to be held in a female prison.

Isla 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.

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Bryson was remanded to HMP Cornton Vale women’s prison and is due to be sentenced next month.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Andy Buchanan/PA WireFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Andy Buchanan/PA Wire
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Andy Buchanan/PA Wire

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said it was wrong for “this beast” to have been sent to a women’s prison.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon said: "In general, any prisoner who poses a risk of sexual offending is segregated from other prisoners, including during any period of risk assessment.

"Secondly, there is no automatic right for a trans woman convicted of a crime to serve their sentence in a female prison, even if they have a gender recognition certificate. Every case is subject to rigorous individual risk assessment and as part of that, the safety of other prisoners is paramount.

"Finally, in general terms and perhaps most importantly, I heard the chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland say this yesterday – ‘I don't see how it’s possible to have a rapist within a female prison’. And so let me be very clear, I agree with that statement. Bearing in mind what I’ve just said about the importance of individualised risk assessment, as a general principle and presumption I think that statement is correct.”

Nicola Sturgeon speaks at First Minister's Questions. Picture: BBCNicola Sturgeon speaks at First Minister's Questions. Picture: BBC
Nicola Sturgeon speaks at First Minister's Questions. Picture: BBC

Ms Sturgeon added: “That risk assessment [of Bryson] is underway and as in all cases, the Scottish Prison Service won’t wait until an assessment is completed if they think action is required more quickly.

"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 parliamentary and public concern in this case, I can confirm to Parliament that this prisoner will not be incarcerated at Cornton Vale women’s prison, and I hope that provides assurance to the public, not least to the victims in this particular case.”

The First Minister later added: “This prisoner is not going to be incarcerated in Cornton Vale, either short-term or long-term.”

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She indicated Bryson would be removed from the women’s prison by the end of Friday.

Scottish Tories leader Douglas Ross said he appreciated the response, but stressed Bryson was at Cornton Vale now. “The reality is this double rapist, this beast is in a women’s prison right now,” he said. “We think it’s wrong that a rapist is sent to a women’s prison.”

Speaking to journalists after FMQs, Ms Sturgeon was asked if she directed the Scottish Prison Service to remove Bryson from Cornton Vale. She said: “The SPS has arrived at a decision. It’s an operation matter. I think it’s arrived at the right decision here.

"It’s important that every prisoner is individually risk assessed, that’s important in principle. But as I’ve just said in the chamber, notwithstanding that, as a general presumption in principle, the comments that I read out from the chief executive of Rape Crisis Scotland that it can’t be right for a rapist to be in a female prison is a statement that I agree with.”

She said “no formal direction” was given to the SPS.

Asked if she made her views clear to the SPS, Ms Sturgeon said: “I’ve just made my views clear in the chamber.”