SCOTLAND’s Justice Secretary has rejected calls to intervene in a convicted rapist potentially being sent to a female prison as he insisted prison bosses can be trusted to make the right decisions.

The row emerged after a transgender woman convicted of raping two women while she was a man is being held in a women’s prison – with Conservative MSPs attempting to link the situation to a rejection of a gender recognition amendment halting trans people awaiting trial to obtain a gender recognition certificate .

But SNP Justice Secretary Keith Brown told MSPs that trans people holding a gender recognition certificate does not entitle them to a place in the prison estate of their choosing.

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Isla Bryson 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.

It is understood she is being held at Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling while awaiting sentence for the crimes, which she committed before she began transitioning to become a woman.

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) said it decides where to send transgender prisoners “on an individualised basis, informed by a multi-disciplinary assessment of both risk and need”.

It comes after the UK Government blocked controversial gender reform legislation in Scotland which would speed up and simplify the process for trans people to obtain a gender recognition certificate (GRC).

Speaking in Holyrood, Tory MSP Russell Findlay claimed that his amendment to the gender recognition reforms, which would have blocked trans people from applying for a gender recognition certificate while on trial, is the “scenario” he tried to stop.

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Mr Findlay warned about “violent” criminals “ exploiting the system” and asked Mr Brown “why his SNP Government think any rapist should be allowed inside any women’s prison”.

As of June last year, only 16 transgender prisoners out of a total of 7,409 inmates were being held in Scotland.

Mr Brown said that the gender recognition reforms, currently blocked by the UK Government, would “not have changed the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) approach to trans prisoners”.

He added that the decision over which prison is suitable for inmates is “not dependent on a GRC” and is “one based on a system of risk”.

Mr Brown said: “It’s the assessment of risk of the individual, the risk of other prisoners and the risk to prison staff as well”.

The minister told Holyrood we has confident the SPS would “evolve their policy to continue that record” of looking after inmates.

Mr Findlay pointed to prison staff, insisting that “no-one doubts their professionalism”.

But he added that the Scottish Government “has the power to stop this and intervene”.

Mr Findlay said that Mr Brown “can put this right at the stroke of a pen and one phone call” as he called on the minister to “direct the SPS to block this rapist and any others from being sent to a women’s prison”.

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But Mr Brown was adamant that he will “trust the SPS to deal with this”.

Dismissing any link between the case and the gender recognition reforms, Mr Brown said: “If somebody did have a GRC it would not guarantee them the right to be transferred to a prison of their choice.”

“The gender recognition reform bill does not change the SPS position in relation to trans prisoners.”

He said that the reforms will “continue to have a minimal impact on how they assess prisoners in their care”.

He added that the SPS “retain the ability to place any individual in an estate that does not correspondent to the gender of their gender recognition certificate”.

The SNP's Joanna Cherry, a staunch critic of the gender recognition reforms, has also waded into the row.

Speaking on Times Radio, she said: "To many people, it will look like this convicted rapist has gamed the system in order to try and garner sympathy, and to end up in a women’s prison. And I think a lot of people will be shocked by that.

“So, I think we should be talking about these cases. And women in prison are very vulnerable. Many women in prison have themselves been abused, and have suffered injuries over the years. And so they’re particularly vulnerable. And perhaps some people would say nobody really cares about prisoners.

“But the point about human rights is that they’re universal, and they apply to everyone. So I’m very concerned about the safety of women prisoners, with whom a convicted rapist has been placed.

“And under Scots law, the crime of rape can only be committed by somebody with a penis, and that’s a man. And I think we should call – I think we should call out what’s happened here.”

Interviewer Stig Abell asked: “So, this is a man who’s committed a crime and should be in a male prison?”

To which Ms Cherry replied: “Yes.”

An SPS spokeswoman said: “Decisions by the SPS as to the most appropriate location to accommodate transgender people are made on an individualised basis, informed by a multi-disciplinary assessment of both risk and need.

“Such decisions seek to protect both the wellbeing and rights of the individual as well as the welfare and rights of others around them, including staff, in order to achieve an outcome that balances risks and promotes the safety of all.

“Where there are any concerns about any risks posed by an individual, either to themselves or others, we retain the ability to keep them separate from the mainstream population until an agreed management plan is in place.”