Nicola Sturgeon, Douglas Ross and the man at the centre of the row, Adam Graham.
HOLYROOD NOTEBOOK by BILL HEANEY
The public have rightly been outraged that a double rapist changed their gender after being charged by the police, Conservative leader Douglas Ross told the Scottish Parliament today.
Mr Ross told MSPs that this week, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans, Keith Brown, was asked whether that rapist should now be considered a woman.
According to Mr Ross, this is what Keith Brown said: “I think that is the case. We have to accept people identify, as in this case, as women.”
Does the First Minister agree with her justice secretary, he asked
The politicians decided this was too important an issue to shout about and put aside their usual ya-boo for this episode of First Minister’s Questions.
Nicola Sturgeon said: “I think that a rapist should be considered a rapist. That is what I think. That individual has been convicted of rapes and therefore that is the terminology. I will not get into the individual circumstances of that particular individual’s claims to be a woman, because I do not have enough information about that, but the individual has been convicted of serious sex offences, and that is the relevant consideration in terms of which prison they should be accommodated in.
“These issues have obviously had great public and media attention in recent days, but these issues are not new, nor have the arrangements within the Scottish Prison Service for dealing with transgender prisoners changed in any way. As the chair of the Prison Officers Association Scotland said this week, the Scottish Prison Service has been making risk-based decisions about the accommodation of trans prisoners for many years, and indeed it has been doing that effectively and safely.
“The risk assessment processes in the cases that have been reported in recent days are under way. It is not the case that any decision had been taken to allow either of those people to serve their sentences in women’s prisons.
“However, given the nature of the coverage and the potential—the reality—for that to cause concern among women prisoners and the general population, and indeed to cause distress in the trans community, the overwhelming majority of whom, like the overwhelming majority of the general population, have never committed any offences, led us to clarify the matter and put it beyond doubt.
“The position now, pending the review that was already under way, is that no transgender prisoner with a history of violence, including sexual violence, against women will be housed in or transferred to a women’s prison. That is what is important, and it is that clarity that matters to the public.”
Douglas Ross did not agree. He said: “The First Minister’s final words there were about clarity. That answer was anything but clear. Her justice secretary is very clear that he thinks that a double rapist is a woman. He has enough information to come to that conclusion. The First Minister says that she does not have enough information to come to that conclusion.
“I want to look at an area where we agree, which is that trans people are not the problem here. However, here is where we disagree. When a man rapes two women, we do not think that he should be considered a woman just because he says so. We should call out criminals such as that one, who are abusing the system—they are not trans people, but dangerous and violent men.
“Adam Graham, who wants to be known as Isla Bryson, raped two women. He is an abusive man who seeks to exploit loopholes in the Government’s current policy.
Adam Graham, who wants to be known as Isla Bryson.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s answer to me was that she wants to call a rapist a rapist. However, can she just give a clear answer to my question—not the question that she wants to answer, but the one that I want to ask her: is that double rapist a woman?”
The First Minister, who chose to wear pink for FMQs, replied: “That individual claims to be a woman; I said that I do not have information about whether those claims have validity. I do not think that Douglas Ross and I are disagreeing here. What is relevant in this case is not whether the individual is a man or claims to be a woman or is trans; what is relevant is that the individual is a rapist. That is how the individual should be described and that is what should be the main consideration in deciding how the individual is dealt with—that is why the individual is in a male prison and not a female one. Those are the issues that matter.
“Douglas Ross talked about current policy. I accept that he has not done so today, but I have read many things in recent days that have tried to conflate the situation in prisons with the legislation that Parliament passed overwhelmingly before Christmas. The two are, of course, not connected and would not be connected even if that legislation was in force, which it is not.
“The current policy, which is, in my understanding, broadly similar to the approaches that are taken in other jurisdictions, has been in place in the Scottish Prison Service since 2014. As the chair of the Prison Officers Association Scotland said himself this week, the prison service has been taking risk-based decisions about transgender prisoners for many years and it has been doing that safely and effectively. That is what it should continue to do, albeit with the presumptions that were set out for clarity at the weekend.”
Douglas Ross replied: “The First Minister is right to say that I have not mentioned the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill at all. I am speaking about the current Scottish Government policy—I have it here—which states that “it is the view of the Scottish Government that trans women are women”.
He added: “It is the view of the First Minister’s justice secretary that a double rapist is a woman. I am not sure what the First Minister’s view on that is. She says that there is no disagreement between her and me on that point, but there is a massive disagreement. I believe that a double rapist or anyone who rapes a woman is a man—they cannot be considered anything else.
“This all matters for very good reasons. It matters because when a violent criminal, such as Adam Graham, gets out of prison, under Nicola Sturgeon’s current Government policies—the ones that I have just spoken about, which she raised—he is considered a woman, which means that sex offenders such as him can keep forcing their way into women’s spaces.
“Adam Graham was already able to access a beauty class after raping two women. Twenty-one-year-old Rachel Ferguson was in that class with him and told a newspaper:
‘It really scares me to look back and realise she was watching me with no clothes on after being charged with this. It makes me feel physically sick and violated’.
“This is a fundamental question about women’s safety. I refuse to trust the word of a rapist. Why does the First Minister do so?”
The First Minister told him: “I do not, and nothing that I have said suggests that I do. Can I set out the reality here? In rightly dealing with the matter and in my answering questions about that very serious individual case, it is important that we also remember—and it bears repetition—that trans women are a very tiny proportion of our society and that the overwhelming number of them never commit any offences of any description, as is true for the overwhelming majority of the general population.
“In dealing with individuals such as that one, who have to be dealt with very seriously, it is important that we do not inadvertently undermine the rights of the law-abiding majority of trans people in our country. That is an important principle of which we must not lose sight.
“Rapists should be dealt with as rapists—I do not think that there is any disagreement on that, and it does a disservice to the victims of crime to suggest that we disagree on that issue.
“On access to single-sex spaces, it is the case that, under current law—the Equality Act 2010, which is of course legislation that is reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament—there are provisions to exclude trans women from single-sex spaces.
“Those exemptions can be applied whether or not a trans woman has a gender recognition certificate. It is important that, as we discuss these important issues, we do so calmly—I recognise that we are having a calm exchange right now—and without misrepresenting the position, even inadvertently, because that would do a disservice to the trans community more generally, the victims of male violence against women and the population at large.
“I will remind Douglas Ross of another point, which I have made before. I do not pretend to speak for them, but organisations such as Rape Crisis Scotland and Scottish Women’s Aid, which deal day and daily with women who have been the victims of male violence against them, were supportive of the legislation, and they deal with the situation around trans women every day. We could all do with listening more to them, because they are in many respects the experts in their field.”
Douglas Ross stuck with it: “We are having a calm debate, which is right for this sensitive issue. However, I am feeling frustrated, as I was last week, that I have repeatedly asked the First Minister for an answer that she refuses to give.
“Under law, a rapist has to be a man. The Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans thinks that this rapist is a woman. In my final opportunity today, I would like to get a clear answer from the First Minister. Is Adam Graham—this double rapist—a man or a woman?
“Let us remember that, in court, this man lied. He told people that he did not rape two women. However, under Nicola Sturgeon’s policy, he is believed when he claims to be a woman. He can keep on demanding access to women’s spaces, he can keep forcing victims to call him “she” and he can keep terrifying and traumatising women.
“There is murmuring among SNP members, so I ask them and the First Minister to listen to the words of one of Adam Graham’s victims. This survivor was raped by him. On Sunday, she said: ‘I don’t believe a word … I don’t believe he’s truly transgender. I feel as if he’s made a mockery out of them using it … I’m sure he’s faking it’.
“This brave woman summed up the feeling of the majority of people in Scotland when she said:
“You’ve got genuine cases where people are desperate to get reassignment for the right reasons because they’ve been born into that body … not because they’ve raped two people and decided that’s an easy way out.
“Why is the First Minister giving rapists an easy way out?”
Nicola Sturgeon told MSPs and the packed public gallery, where people applauded occasionally during the debate: “That does a disservice to victims of crime. I will say a number of things, which are all extremely important.
“On the quote that Douglas Ross narrated, my feeling is that that is almost certainly the case, which is why the key factor—and only important factor—in the case is not the individual’s claim to be a woman but the fact that they have been convicted of rape. The individual is a rapist: that should be the deciding factor in decisions about how that prisoner is treated, which, indeed, is what is happening in relation to where the prisoner is.
“On more than one occasion today, Douglas Ross has used the terminology of forcing access to women-only spaces. Those are important considerations, but that language ignores the exemptions under current equality law, which is law that, even if this Parliament wanted to, it could not change. Those exemptions enable trans women to be excluded from single-sex spaces when the tests in that legislation are met, regardless of whether they have a gender recognition certificate.
“The other thing that Douglas Ross’s questions ignore is the fact that, for any sex offenders who are released from prison, there are monitoring arrangements—the well-established MAPPA or multi-agency public protection arrangements—to ensure that any continuing risks that are posed by individuals, regardless of gender, are properly managed.
“It is really important that we look seriously at all these issues, but, in doing so, we should bear in mind two things. First, as I have said, we should not further stigmatise trans people generally. That is important. Secondly, we should not cause undue concern among the public. If there are issues to be addressed, we should address them, but we should do that in a way that is not just calm, but which does not misrepresent the situation, because that is in nobody’s interest.
“If all of us come at such debates in that spirit, we can work our way through all these issues, respecting the rights of those whose rights deserve to be respected, but also protecting the public—and women, in particular—from men who want to and do commit violent acts against them.”
Yes, and just watch minister Gilruth on Question Time refusing to answer the question if Bryan was a man or a woman.
Absolute laughing stock if it wasn’t so serious. But that’s Sturgeon and her government. World class clowns.
Time she was gone.
Oh and here’s a thought.
Foow up act Jenny Gilruth when asked if Bryson was a man or woman responded to say… ” the individual is a rapist”
Now does that mean a, paedophile is a class of gender like a rapist?
Think about it?