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by Kirsteen Paterson
31 January 2023
Keith Brown: Scottish Government did not know Isla Bryson was being sent to women's jail

Isla Bryson attends court

Keith Brown: Scottish Government did not know Isla Bryson was being sent to women's jail

Convicted rapist Isla Bryson was taken to a women's jail without the knowledge of Scottish Government ministers, it has been confirmed.

Justice secretary Keith Brown gave the confirmation in a ministerial statement on the management of transgender prisoners.

And he said he remains supportive of the principles of self-identification for transgender people.

The comments follow uproar about the case of Bryson, who was called Adam Graham at the time of attacks on two women, and violent offender Tiffany Scott, previously known as Adam Burns.

Reports emerged that both offenders may be placed with women prisoners, despite their criminal records.

On Sunday, Brown said transgender prisoners with a history of violence against women will not be housed in female-only jails whilst an urgent review into the issue takes place.

It is understood that this measure may become permanent, pending the outcome of a review by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) into its transgender policy and another seeking to learn lessons from the Bryson case.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she had "no knowledge" of any government involvement in the decision to take Bryson to Cornton Vale for a risk assessment, following reports that Barlinnie was the initial choice.

Today Brown confirmed the move was carried out "without ministerial involvement nor indeed awareness and in line with existing procedures".

A review into the Bryson case is expected to go before the SPS executive "at the end of this week". Brown will write to the Criminal Justice Committee on the outcome next week.

Brown said: "The timescales for any subsequent action will depend on the findings. Until these reviews are complete, no transgender person already in custody with any history of violence against women, including sexual offences against women will be moved from the male to the female estate. 

"In addition, no newly convicted or remanded transgender prisoner with a history of violence against women will be placed in the female estate. For clarity this definition includes any history of violence - and violence including sexual offences. It's felt that following through with a robust risk assessment and taking account of all relevant factors, there are still exceptional circumstances in particular cases that will require the approval of ministers."

Labour's Katie Clark said the current SPS policy was devised "without the experiences and interests of women being taken into account", and called on Brown to withdraw the policy.

Conservative MSP Jamie Greene said the review by the SPS was due last summer and MSPs have "no idea" why this has been delayed.

Pauline McNeill of Labour referred to the case of Katie Dolatowski, a transgender sex offender who was housed in a women's facility, saying: "Why has the government repeatedly defended the SPS risk assessment as being robust? Clearly it was not robust.

"These risk assessment rules allowed a paedophile to go to Cornton Vale and ministers knew it, because I raised it directly with them. If there are any lessons to build onto, does the cabinet secretary agree that is also the government that should learn some lessons to include the safety of women when they're looking at prison services?"

Brown offered to discuss that case further outwith the chamber, adding: "In relation to the wider review that's been taken forward, at this stage the interests the views of women in particular have been taken forward, have been listened to, have been canvassed and will form a part of the consideration of that review."

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