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by Kirsteen Paterson
02 February 2024
New restrictions on transgender prisoner data will protect inmates, jails chief says

The case of rapist Isla Bryson led to questions about transgender people in the prison estate | Alamy

New restrictions on transgender prisoner data will protect inmates, jails chief says

Information on transgender prisoners will not be published because releasing data on a small number of offenders could put them at risk, MSPs have been told.

The head of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said information on the jails used for transgender women and transgender men would not be released unless more than five such inmates are in custody at any one time.

The rule also covers data related to the number of people in custody by local authority area.

Such information was previously displayed on the SPS Publication Information Page.

The news comes after Teresa Medhurst, chief executive of the SPS appeared before the Scottish Parliament's Criminal Justice Committee.

In a letter to the panel, which is headed by SNP MSP Audrey Nicoll, Medhurst said the SPS will limit information to mitigate the risk of identification.

Work is currently underway to establish whether annual averages can be included in quarterly reviews.

The next such paper, on the first three months of 2023-24, will be published with the restrictions applied.

Medhurst said "increased public interest in the transgender population" means there is a "greater risk of potential jigsaw identification of individuals, should SPS data be pieced together with other publicly available information".

The notification follows a request by committee members for further information on the matter.

Medhurst said a review into the SPS Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment Policy had noted that it is "not common practice" for the service to "publish any information regarding the placement of any groups of the prison population and that transgender people in prison should be treated no differently".

As a result, "disclosure control" will be applied "where numbers are less than five, to protect the identity of individuals".

Medhurst stated: "SPS is committed to publishing data about the prison population, including about the transgender population, [and] will continue to publish the number of transgender people in prison on a quarterly basis however, in order to mitigate any risk of identification, SPS will not report on the gender of estate that people are placed in."

Medhurst said the policy would cause "less intrusion to individuals concerned whilst still demonstrating to the public that we are committed to public knowledge and understanding of our prison population".

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