AN urgent review into the handling of rapist Isla Bryson by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has found that “at no point were any women in the care of the prison service at risk of harm”.

However, the SPS has signalled a change in approach moving forward. It said that newly convicted or remanded transgender prisoners will be placed in an establishment which aligns with their gender at birth.

As such, Bryson would not have been held in solitary confinement at Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only women’s prison, before being convicted.

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Bryson was found to have raped two women while still a man, and began transition only after first appearing in court. The case has been at the centre of a political storm, amid which the First Minister questioned if Bryson is truly trans.

An urgent review was launched to check if Bryson had been handled correctly and women in the prison estate kept safe from the convicted rapist.

While it found that women were “at no point” put at risk of harm, the review did make four recommendations. These are: 

  • the creation of a shared justice process for admitting transgender people to prisons in Scotland to help improve decision making at admission and subsequent case conferences.
  • better communication between justice partners to ensure a clearer approach to the transfer of transgender people from court to custody.
  • for the wider SPS Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment (GIGR) Policy Review to consider improvements to “admission” and “placement and management” and for SPS to consider the weight of a person’s previous offending history as part of the case conference process.
  • to strengthen the balance around the risk of harm with an individualised approach as part of the admissions process to prison, allowing for someone to be located in secure isolation for the sole purpose of a risk assessment based on known and unknown risks.

The SPS said it would not be publishing the full report as it contains too much personal information about both Bryson and staff members.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown (below) welcomed the findings in a letter to the Scottish Parliament’s Criminal Justice Committee.

The National: Keith Brown

He said: “Firstly, I want to acknowledge my concern for victims of crime and the distress caused to them. It is important that consideration of issues relating to the management of prisoners is measured and does not retraumatise victims or risk unintended consequences for transgender people or individuals in the care of SPS.

“All recommendations from the review have been accepted by [Teresa Medhurst] as Chief Executive and will be progressed by SPS in collaboration with others as needed. As confirmed in the letter, SPS will factor the learning identified from this review into its Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment (GIGR) Policy Review, which is ongoing.

“Pending the outcome of the GIGR Policy Review, measures to provide reassurance as set out in Ms Medhurst’s letter will remain in place.

“I would like to acknowledge the work SPS has done in continuing to fulfil its operational responsibilities while completing the lessons learned review. SPS has considerable expertise in managing complex, high-profile and challenging individuals within their care and keeping people safe; and I commend their professionalism.”