NICOLA Sturgeon has defended her decision not to step in when the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) sent a transgender woman with a history of sexual offences against young girls to Scotland's only women's prison last year.

Katie Dolatowski was sent to Cornton Vale Prison in Stirling last October and was understood to have been held in a segregated unit in November when a protest was held outside the facility about the 22-year-old's detention.

The First Minister did not intervene over the issue then raising questions why she did not after last week stepping in to reverse the SPS's decision to send transgender woman Isla Bryson to Cornton Vale after she was convicted of raping two women.

Keith Brown, the justice secretary, announced on Sunday a halt to all transgender prisoners with a history of violence towards women and girls being sent to Cornton Vale while a review of where they should be accommodated is carried out.

In March 2018 Dolatowski targeted a ten-year-old girl in the toilet of a Fife supermarket. The youngster was grabbed by the face, shoved into the cubicle and ordered to remove her trousers, but managed to escape.

The attack came a month after Dolatowski had filmed a 12-year-old girl on the toilet in another supermarket in Fife. For the sex offences, she was placed on a three-year community payback order and banned from having contact with children.

The First Minister was last night asked whether she was content with the decision to send Dolatowski in Cornton Vale.

"The prison service has had a system of risk assessment in place for many years as prison services in other countries do. The system in Scotland as far as I understand it not materially different to that in other countries and that is operational decisions for the Scottish Prison Service that they reach after robust risk assessment," she told Channel 4 News.

Pressed if she was content with the outcome of that decision she said it was an operational decision for the prison service.

It was put to her that the decision to send the double rapist Isla Bryson, 31, to Cornton Vale Prison, was also an operational decision which was then reversed.

She was asked why she intervened in the Bryson case but not that of Dolatowski.

The First Minister replied: "The concern that has been given rise to because of the focus I think for the general public needed to be given greater clarity.

"And secondly the focus that we have seen in recent days for the trans community itself, remember like the general population the overwhelming majority of whom commit no crimes ever of any description, it is important to say that decisions in these cases that were likely to have been arrived at anyway through the risk assessment we put beyond any doubt by the presumptions that have been set out."

Pressed whether she thought it acceptable that Dolatowski, who had committed offences against girls in a female toilet, was sent to Cornton Vale, she said: "I am not going to comment on decisions that have been taken in the past by the prison service on the basis of risk assessments that they have carried out. 

"We have seen in recent days and that's just a fact of life a heightened degree of public concern around these issues and what we have done is set out clarity that in many respects are giving clarity about the decisions that the prison service which in all likelihood they would have reached through the normal procedures anyway.

"And I think that is important and the right thing to do pending the outcome of the broader review that is underway."

Dr Michael Foran, a lecturer in public law at Glasgow University, who will later today give evidence to MPs on the Gender Recognition Reform Bill and how in his view its conflicts with the UK Equality Act, responded to the interview this morning.

He wrote on Twitter: “Here are two sex offenders that were sent to a women’s prison why did you intervene in one and not the other?” 

“Well for one you didn’t notice so we got away with it but for the other there was backlash so we decided to intervene. There is no way to justify that explanation."

Dolatowski was housed in Cornton Vale last year while awaiting sentence after pleading guilty at Falkirk Sheriff Court to assaulting a fellow inmate - repeatedly punching him on the head and body – while detained alongside male prisoners at Polmont Young Offenders Institution in January 2021. 

Earlier this month  Dolatowski failed to appear at Falkirk Sheriff Court for sentencing. Sheriff Alison Michie issued a warrant for Dolatowski’s arrest.

Police Scotland have been approached by The Herald to find out if Dolatowski has been arrested over the failure to appear in court.