THE Scottish Government has halted the movement of transgender prisoners with a history of violence against women to female prisons pending the outcome of an urgent review.

In a bid to defuse a political row over the issue, Justice Secretary Keith Brown said the steps would stay in force until the Scottish Prison Service delivereda forthcoming report on the issue.

It followed ministers being criticised over the handling of Isla Bryson last week after their conviction for rape while known as Adam Graham. 

Bryson was found guilty of raping one woman in Clydebank in 2016 and another in Glasgow in 2019 at the High Court in Glasgow on Tuesday.

The 31-year-old only began identifying as a woman after being charged, and has not legally changed gender, although they are taking hormones and requesting surgery.

Despite the Scottish Court Service expecting Bryson to be transferred to Barlinnie, the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) moved him to the women’s jail at Cornton Vale instead.

After a public outcry, Nicola Ms Sturgeon made her opposition known to the SPS, which moved Bryson to HMP Edinburgh on Thursday, although she insisted she had not ordered this.

Ms Sturgeon later dismissed the idea of a blanket ban on male-bodied sex offenders in women’s jails in an interview with The News Agents podcast.

She said it should be the “presumption” not to house such offenders in women’s jails, but the SPS should still have discretion in the matter.

However on Saturday it was reported that another violent Scottish prisoner, Tiffany Scott, previously known as Andrew Burns, has been approved for transfer into the female prison estate.

Scott was given a lifelong restriction in 2023 because of the risk they posed to the public after admitting stalking a 13-year-old girl by sending her letters while in prison.

Facing calls to act and ban all male-bodied sex offenders from women’s jails, Mr Brown today issued a lengthy statement annoucing new measures. 

It means no newly convicted transgender person with a history of violence against women will be placed in a female prison, and nor will any transgender prisoner with this history be moved from a male to a female prison, which would cover Scott.

It also means that, despite Holyrood recently legislating to allow men to self-identify as women in the eyes of the law, and the Scottish Government arguing in court that this change effectively applies in all circumstances, trans prisoners will be treated as a distinct category.

The author JK Rowling, a pungent critic of the Scottish Government's gender recognition reforms, accused the First Minister of hastily ditching her "cast iron principles" after her critics were proved right.

She tweeted: "But Nicoa Sturgeon's made it very clear that every woman's group and safeguarding expert raising concerns about her supposedly progressive agenda is a bigot.

"What can possibly have changed? Surely not her cast iron principles?"

Mr Brown said: “I understand that the issue of any trans woman being convicted of violent and sexual offences is a highly emotive subject and that the public concern is understandable.

“As the First Minister pointed out last week, we must not allow any suggestion to take root that trans women pose an inherent threat to women. Predatory men are the risk to women. 

“However, as with any group in society, a small number of trans women [former men] will offend and be sent to prison. 

“Therefore, I hope that the measures I am about to highlight will offer reassurance in the ongoing ability of the prison service to manage trans individuals and ensure the safety of all prisoners.

“We must also never forget that there are victims in these cases. My thoughts remain with them.

“I explained in Parliament last week my trust in the Scottish Prison Service in managing and dealing with offenders and the risks that they can pose. That includes the tiny fraction – around 0.2% of prison population - of people in prison who are trans.

“As we always acknowledge, it is important arrangements for the management of offenders are kept under review.

“It is important to be clear, however, that SPS policies have in no way been changed or impacted by the recent passing of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill (which, in any event, is not yet in force).

“SPS have already been undertaking, in dialogue with the Scottish Government and other stakeholders, a review of the management of trans prisoners, which is nearing completion

“In addition, an urgent lessons learned review has been instructed in relation to the case of Isla Bryson, with any learning to be applied immediately to existing transgender cases in the prison estate. The latter review will report to the CEO by Friday 3 February.

“Until these reviews are complete, however, I can confirm that the following will apply (unless there are exceptional circumstances, in which case the approval of Ministers will be required):

“No transgender person already in custody with any history of violence against women will be moved from the male to the female estate.

“No newly convicted or remanded transgender prisoner with any history of violence against women will be placed in the female estate. Violence against women includes sexual offences against women.

“The on-going safety of prisoners – many of whom have experienced gender based violence in the community - will remain the priority in all actions that are taken.

“Beyond the steps being set out today, it is vital that decisions about the location and management of prisoners continue to be based on thorough risk assessment, drawing on the expertise and input of relevant professionals and applying any lessons learned from the reviews referred to.

“I am grateful to the Scottish Prison Service for their continued ongoing work in this area and for their professionalism in dealing with complex, high profile and challenging individuals within their care.”

A Scottish Prison Service spokesperson added: “We have commenced an urgent review of all transgender cases currently managed in our establishments.

“Our first concern is always, and remains, the health, safety, and wellbeing of all the people in our care, and that of our staff.

“We have very robust risk assessment processes, and a track record of keeping people safe, in often challenging circumstances.

“We have therefore paused the movement of all transgender individuals, until the review has been completed.

“This review will consider any history of violence or sexual offending against women, and associated risk, with a view to determining the most appropriate location for the individual to be accommodated.

“Until the review is completed, any trans individuals, with a history of violence towards women, will only be admitted to the male estate, in segregation, when they first enter our care.

“This arrangement will be progressed in line with our human rights obligations.

“Finally, our ongoing policy review will be independently assessed by experts in women affected by trauma and violence.”

Tom Gordon

Political Editor


THE chairman of the BBC is under more pressure after a leaked memo suggested Boris Johnson was told to stop seeking personal financial advice from him while Prime Minister. 

The Sunday Times reported the cabinet secretary Simon Case warned Mr Johnson about his relationship with Richard Sharp on December 22, 2020 as the public announcement of his BBC post was due a few days later, on January 6, 2021.

Mr Sharp is already facing calls to step down for helping the PM’s distant cousin Sam Blyth guarantee an £800,000 loan facility to Mr Johnson without telling his BBC interview panel.

The former banker, who is due to be grilled on the controversy by MPs next month, has insisted he wil stay in place as BBC Chairman.

Citing a leaked Cabinet Office memo, the Sunday Time said Mr Case issued his advice after Mr Johnson and Mr Sharp sought advice on accepting the £800,000 loan from Mr Blyth.

Mr Johnson reportedly secured the money in February 2021.

The paper said the advice included the line “given the imminent announcement of Richard Sharp as the new BBC chair, it is important that you no longer ask his advice about your personal financial matters”, implying he had sought advice from Mr Sharp.

However a spokesman for the former PM said Mr Sharp had “never given any financial advice to Boris Johnson, nor has Mr Johnson sought any financial advice from him”.

Mr Sharp, who had known Mr Blyth for 40 years, has repeatedly said he did not advise Mr Johnson or have detailed knowledge of his finances. 

Public Appointments Commissioner William Shawcross is planning to investigate Mr Sharp’s appointment as BBC chairman.

The SNP urged Rishi Sunak to withdraw the Tory whip from Mr Johnson, a near suidical move guaranteed to trigger a huge backlash from Tory MPs.

SNP MP Kirsty Blackman said: “Rishi Sunak should remove the whip from Johnson immediately. His appointment of Richard Sharp as BBC chair absolutely reeks of cronyism and a full investigation must be carried out into the appointment by Boris Johnson. 

“The UK government is riddled with corruption and sleaze at every level.”

Levelling Up Secretary Michael was pressed on the matter on Sunday morning, and denied any suggestion that Mr Johnson was becoming a “liability” to Downing Street.

He admitted that he could “completely recognise how you can produce two pieces of evidence and a conclusion can be drawn”.

But he added: “I know from experience in the past, including when I’ve jumped to conclusions about people and then found that actually I’d been unfair on them, that we just need to see all the facts.”

He said the purpose of Mr Shawcross’s inquiry was to “make sure that everything’s completely kosher”.

“It’s absolutely understandable to think ‘Aha, this plus this equals that’, but my bitter experience is wait until we see all the facts before coming to a definitive conclusion.”

He added: “I think Boris Johnson was a very good prime minister, and I think that he has a lot to contribute to public life in the future.”

A spokesman for the former prime minister said: “Neither Mr Johnson nor anyone acting on his behalf was ever aware that Sam Blyth was being considered for any role at the British Council, nor did Mr Johnson have any discussions with Sam Blyth or anyone else about any such role.

Tory MSP Russell Findlay said: "After much dithering and flip-flopping, the SNP government has finally been shamed into doing the right thing.

"Just days ago, the justice secretary tried to pass the buck, saying decisions on trans prisoners were for the Scottish Prison Service.

"But as public anger escalated, Nicola Sturgeon was forced to intervene by ordering the removal of a double rapist from a women's prison.

"It should not have taken a second shocking case for them to ban all transfers. The long overdue SPS policy review must now be completed as a matter of urgency."