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by Margaret Taylor
28 February 2023
Isla Bryson: Self-identifying trans woman jailed for eight years for double rape

Isla Bryson: Self-identifying trans woman jailed for eight years for double rape

Trans rapist Isla Bryson has been jailed for eight years for raping two women while living as a man known as Adam Graham.

Bryson will be supervised for a further three years on release, with judge Lord Scott noting that he was imposing an extended sentence because "the normal period of licence would not be enough to protect the public from serious harm from you".

Under normal circumstances people become eligible to apply for parole after serving half their custodial sentence and, if approved, are released on licence for the remainder of the term. During that time they can be recalled to prison at any time if they breach the conditions of their release.

With an extended sentence the full custodial period as well as the full period of licence apply.

At the High Court in Glasgow, Bryson was last month found guilty of raping one woman in 2016 and another in 2019 and was temporarily housed in a female prison to await sentencing.

That led to a backlash because, despite now self-identifying as a trans woman, Bryson did not begin to transition until after being charged with the crimes.

Though self-identification sits at the heart of the Scottish Government’s now-paused gender reforms, the case led to embarrassment for politicians with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon being unable to state whether she believes Bryson is a woman or not.

Humza Yousaf, who is in the running to replace Sturgeon as first minister, said at the weekend he believes Bryson is “at it” in terms of claiming to be trans – something that is at odds with the spirit of the Gender Recognition Reform (GRR) Bill, which seeks to protect everyone’s right to self-identify their gender.

In his sentencing remarks Lord Scott dismissed Bryson’s defence of vulnerability, noting that a history of adverse childhood experiences and neuro-developmental disorders are “no excuse at all for what you did to these two women in in 2016 and 2019”.

“Regardless of your own vulnerability, in a period of just under three years, you raped two women who can both be regarded as vulnerable,” he said.

“The similarities in their vulnerability are consistent with the case presented against you by the Crown which was that both crimes occurred as part of a course of criminal conduct systematically pursued by you.

“That course of conduct involved preying on these women because of their vulnerability and raping them in their own homes where they were entitled to feel entirely safe.”

In setting Bryson’s sentence at the High Court in Edinburgh, Lord Scott said it is “plain” that Bryson presents “a particularly significant risk to any woman with whom you form a relationship” and that the public must be “adequately protected against serious harm from you when you are released from prison”.

While the custodial part of the sentence has been set at eight years, Lord Scott stressed that Bryson’s licence conditions will be “fixed by the Scottish ministers” and if these conditions are breached during the additional three-year period then Bryson will be returned to prison.

Bryson was moved to HMP Barlinnie following conviction after initially being housed in Cornton Vale. The Scottish Prison Service then updated its policies on dealing with transgender prisoners so those with a history of violence against women cannot be put in a female-only jail while newly convicted trans people will be placed in an establishment "which aligns with their gender at birth".

Scottish Conservative shadow community safety minister Russell Findlay, who had tabled an amendment to the GRR that would have prevented anyone charged with sexual offences from self-identifying as trans, said the sentence would be “of little comfort to victims”.

The GRR, which won the backing of MSPs in December, now looks unlikely to be enacted because it has been blocked by Westminster. Yousaf has vowed to fight the UK Government's veto in the courts if he wins the SNP leadership race, but his opponents Ash Regan and Kate Forbes have said they would not.

Findlay said that if the bill is enacted “it will be wide open to exploitation by giving the legal right to sex offenders to declare they are female, no matter the risks to women and girls”.

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