By Bill Heaney
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today refused to exercise her ministerial power to impose a blanket ban on rapists being locked up in women’s jails.
The First Minister finally responded to public outrage this week over the case of a double rapist who is currently incarcerated at Cornton Vale by insisting that the offender – who decided to change gender only after being charged – will not remain in the female institution long term.
But when probed by Douglas Ross at First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon would not commit to imposing a ban on any rapist being incarcerated in a women’s jail, as the Prisons and Young Offenders Institutions Rules allow.
Instead, she said the Scottish Prison Service will continue to risk-assess rapists on a case-by-case basis to determine where they are housed.
Conservative leader Douglas Ross, Justice Secretary Keith Brown and Nicola Sturgeon.
The Scottish Conservative leader accused Nicola Sturgeon of hiding behind the Prison Service and performing a U-turn in the case of this particular rapist – now going by the name of Isla Bryson – only because of huge public and media outrage.
Douglas Ross highlighted justice secretary Keith Brown’s refusal to intervene in the case yesterday as proof that her sudden volte-face is borne of “fears over the political risk to herself rather than the safety risk to women prisoners”.
Douglas Ross MSP said: “It should not have taken public disgust and a slew of negative headlines about a double rapist being sent to a women’s prison for Nicola Sturgeon to realise this was completely unacceptable and wrong.
“But even though she has belatedly U-turned on Keith Brown’s ‘it’s-not-up-to-me’ stance and intervened in this instance, she is still hiding behind the SPS by insisting other rapists would be assessed on a case by case basis.
“She and her justice secretary have the power to impose a blanket ban on all rapists being sent to women’s prisons, so why is she refusing to exercise it?
“It suggests Nicola Sturgeon’s screeching U-turn in the Bryson case was down to fears over the political risk to herself rather than the safety risk to women prisoners.
“This beast only decided to become a woman after being charged with these appalling crimes.
“We think it’s wrong that a rapist is sent to a women’s prison, full stop. We believe that a rapist having access to a women’s single-sex space is a threat.
“I don’t understand why the First Minister can’t simply say that a rapist never, ever belongs in a women’s prison.
“This double rapist only decided to change gender after he was charged by the police.
“It took the threat of jail for this criminal to decide to change gender. That’s not a coincidence, he made a conscious decision.
“We have warned for months that violent criminals, just like the sex offender we are discussing today, would try to exploit loopholes in the GRR Bill to attack and traumatise women.
“The problem, as we said at the time, is not trans people. Violent offenders are the issue.
“But now, before the SNP’s GRR Bill even comes into force, rapists are already exploiting current laws. We shouldn’t make it any easier for them to attack women.
“Nicola Sturgeon seems to reject the idea that women are at risk. She ought to go to Cornton Vale and personally explain to the women there why on earth her government allowed a rapist into their prison in the first place.”
Adam Graham – now going by the name of Isla Bryson – is being moved to men’s prison ‘only because of huge public and media outrage’.