Case of transgender rapist highlights huge flaw in gender Bill, says Findlay

By Lucy Ashton

Fears over the refusal of the SNP to include key safeguards in their controversial GRR Bill have been vindicated by the high-profile case of a transgender rapist this week, it has been claimed.

Scottish Conservative MSP Russell Findlay – whose joint amendment preventing those accused of serious sex crimes from seeking to change gender until their case is concluded, was voted down – has had an Urgent Question on the topic selected by the Presiding Officer for this afternoon.

Conservative Russell Findlay, Cornton Vale Prison and SNP Minister Shona Robison.

The rapist, who first appeared in court as Adam Graham but now goes by the name Isla Bryson, was found guilty yesterday (Tuesday) of raping two women and is in Cornton Vale women’s prison awaiting sentencing.

Russell Findlay believes it is “inappropriate, unacceptable and wrong” for Bryson to be housed in a women’s prison and is demanding the immediate publication of the Scottish Prison Service’s Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment policy review, which was promised last summer. 

Scottish Conservative shadow community safety minister Russell Findlay MSP said: “The horrific rape case brings into sharp focus one of the fundamental flaws of the GRR Bill.

“It would be traumatic and demeaning for any rape victim to hear their brutal attacker referred to as ‘she’ and ‘her’ in court proceedings. Only men can be rapists.

“I put forward an amendment to the GRR Bill which would have prevented those charged with serious sexual offences from changing gender until their case has been concluded, so that exactly this scenario could be avoided in future.

“Astonishingly, SNP, Green and Lib Dem MSPs voted it down, giving the very clear signal that, in their eyes, the rights of criminals take precedence over those of their victims.

“That was unforgivable. However, now that we have a pause in the bill, because of the issuing of a Section 35 order by the UK Government, I would urge Nicola Sturgeon to admit she has got this badly wrong and include our amendment in any redrafted version of the bill.

“The other key aspect of this appalling case is that it’s entirely inappropriate, unacceptable and wrong for this vile rapist to be housed in a female prison, which is bound to contain women who have been victims of male violence, sexual violence and abuse.

“We need the updated policy review from the Scottish Prison Service on transgender criminals – and which prisons are appropriate for them – published now. That’s why I submitted the Urgent Question, which I’m pleased the Presiding Officer has selected.

“When the Scottish Conservatives asked about this early last year, we were promised the review would be published by summer 2022. So why are we still waiting for it?”

Russell Findlay’s Urgent Question selected by the Presiding Officer, reads: To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the Scottish Prison Service’s Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment Policy Review. 

The SPS have broken their promise to publish their updated transgender prisoner policy by summer 2022. The Scottish Prison Service said in response to a Scottish Conservative freedom of information request ‘the SPS Gender Identity and Gender Reassignment (2014) Policy review will be published alongside the updated policy in late Summer 2022’. (SPS FOI HQ22006, 3 May 2022, available on request).

The SNP Government confirmed that transgender prisoners are assessed for suitability on a case by case basis in women’s prisons. Shona Robison confirmed: ‘The SPS has for many years been managing transgender prisoners, some of whom are placed in the women’s estate and some in the men’s estate, according to risk’ (Official report, 21 December 2022, link).

Top: The Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh and Isla Bryson when  she was Adam Graham.

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