PRISON bosses do not expect to be flooded with transgender inmates obtaining a gender recognition certificate if new laws making it easier to do so are rolled out.

A senior prisons official has told MSPs investigating the Scottish Government’s gender recognition proposals that the service will be able to weed out people seeking to abuse the reforms.

Under current Scottish Prison Service (SPS) regulations, the housing of trans prisoners is decided on a case-by-case basis, with a number of factors – including the safety of fellow inmates – considered before a decision is made.

The Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill would allow for a gender recognition certificate (GRC) – a document that changes the holder’s legal sex – to be supplied without the need for a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

The Bill would also cut the time needed for applicants to live in their acquired gender from two years to three months, with a further three-month reflection period, and see the minimum age for an application drop from 18 to 16.

The plans are supported by all Holyrood parties except the Scottish Conservatives.

Opponents have claimed the process could be abused by predatory men, risking the safety of women in the prison estate – but MSPs have been told that obtaining a GRC is not the only factor used in determining where people spend their time in custody, while risk assesments are in place.

James Kerr, deputy chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, told Holyrood’s Equalities, Human Rights and Civil Justice Committee that procedures ensure the safety of inmates.

He told MSPs that there are currently only 16 transgender prisoners in Scotland – with 75 per cent of trans males held in female prisons and transgender women being split 50/50 in the male and female prison estate.

Tory MSP Pam Gosal highlighted the Scottish Prison Service currently reviewing its gender identity and gender reassignment policy, which she claimed may “also give priority status as it were to the GRC holders”.

She said: “Those opposed to the Bill believe that by removing the medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria, obtaining a GRC will be significantly easier for prisoners. So the number of those with a GRC and therefore entitled to be held in the women’s estate will likely rise.

“Let me be clear on this – this is about creating a balance between transgender-related rights and the safety of the female prison population – protecting them from bad faith actors. It is about being fair to all.

“Do you think a fair way to maybe reassure female prisoners would be for an amendment in the Bill to say that the GRC is not affective in prison allocations?”

But Mr Kerr said it wasn’t his place to say whether the Bill should be amended, stressing that “the GRC, for most people, will be a significant life event”.

He added: “Given that ours is an approach that adopts a multi-disciplinary open case-conferenced approach, that will achieve its ends best when we get full engagement by the person concerned.

“So providing clear recognition over their declared GRC status would ensure that we do that.

“We currently don’t see it being a major impact for us. 16 people against 7,409 – and I would anticipate that this year, we would see in the region of possibly in excess of 15,000 people travel through our prisons on a daily basis.

“Even if there were an increase of people that asked for support relative to transgender issues, we don’t see it having a large operational impact for us.”

Asked if the service was prepared if more prisoners do obtain a GRC, he said officials were “ready to respond”, but acknowledged ot was “difficult to predict” whether more people would obtain a certificate.

SNP MSP Fulton MacGregor, asked Mr Kerr about some concerns raised over “people applying for a GRC for untoward reasons” including to “perhaps increase the likelihood of being in another prison setting”.

He added: “Do you feel your procedures and polices in place just now are robust to deal with that scenario?”

Mr Kerr said that “applying risk assessments relative to how we care for and manage people in custody is a well-trodden path for the Scottish Prison Service”.

He added: “There is good experience and expertise across a range of professions that actually make those decisions.

“Might people try and use a GRC for nefarious purposes? Yes, that is one possibility.

“But the GRC is only one aspect of the consideration that we would give in care of, in placement of that individual in custody.”

He added that “risk assessment is not an exact science”.

Mr Kerr said: “It’s a judgement call based up available information and facts that we have at that time.

“But it’s a well-trodden path for the SPS and we use it in a number of factors in terms of placing and managing people through prison.”